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Sei Shonagon was born approximately a thousand years ago (963 is a likely date) and served as 
lady-in-waiting at the Court of the Japanese Empress during the last decade of the tenth 
century. Her father was a provincial official, but is best known as a poet and a scholar. It is 
possible, though unlikely, that Shonagon was briefly married to a government official, by whom 
she may have had a son. Her life after her Court service came to an end is totally obscure. There 
is a tradition that she died in lonely poverty: but this is probably an invention of moralists who 
were shocked by her promiscuity and thought she deserved retribution. Our knowledge of 
Shonagon's life and character rests almost exclusively on the Pillow Book itself. 

Ivan Morris has written widely on modern and ancient Japan, where he has lived for four years, 
and has translated numerous works from both classical and contemporary literature. He 
received his doctorate from the School of Oriental and African Studies and afterwards worked 
in the B.B.C. and the Foreign Office. In 1968 he was awarded the degree of D.Litt. by the 
University of London. 


Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, 

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Auckland 10, New Zealand 

First published in the United States of America by 

Columbia University Press 1967 

First published in Great Britain by 

Oxford University Press 1967 

Published in Penguin Classics 1971 

Reprinted 1974, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982 

Copyright © Ivan Morris, 1967 
All rights reserved 

Printed in the United States of America by 
Kingsport Press, Inc., Kingsport, Tennessee 
Set in Monotype Ehrhardt 

Except in the United States of America, 
this book is sold subject to the condition 
that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, 
be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated 
without the publisher's prior consent in any form of 
binding or cover other than that in which it is 
published and without a similar condition 
including this condition being imposed 
on the subsequent purchaser 

This translation is dedicated to my friend and colleague Professor Donald Keene 


Introduction 9 
The Pillow Book 16 
List of abbreviations 186 
Notes 187 

1. The calendar 253 

2. The government 258 

3. Places 261 

a. Home provinces and neighbouring provinces 262 

b. The surroundings of the capital 263 

c. The capital 264 

4. Clothes, houses, etc. 266 

a. Clothes 266 

b. Houses 267 

c. Vehicles 269 

d. Letters, games, musical instruments 270 

5. Chronology 271 
Further Reading 280 


Sei Shonagon is among the greatest writers of prose in the long history of Japanese literature; 
The Pillow Book is an exceedingly rich source of information concerning the halcyon period in 
which she lived. Yet about her own life we have almost no definite facts. She was born 
approximately a thousand years ago (965 is a likely date) and served as lady-in-waiting to 
Empress Sadako during the last decade of the tenth century. Her father, whether real or 
adoptive, was Motosuke, a member of the Kiyowara clan, who worked as a provincial official 
but was best known as a scholar and a poet. It is possible, though I think unlikely, that 
Shonagon was briefly married to a government official called Tachibana no Norimitsu, by whom 
she may have had a son. Her life after her service ended is totally obscure. There is a tradition 
that she died in lonely poverty; but this may be the invention of moralists who, shocked by her 
worldly approach and promiscuous doings, ascribed to her last years a type of retribution that 
occurs more often in fiction than in reality. 

Of Shonagon's relations with her family nothing is known, and she mentions her father 
only once; we have no idea where or how she lived when not at Court, nor when or where she 
died. Even her name is uncertain: in the palace she was called Shonagon ("Minor Counsellor), 
but recent research suggests that her real name may have been Nagiko; Sei refers to the 
Kiyowara family. 

There is an acidulous reference to Sei Shonagon in the diary of her great contemporary, 
Murasaki Shikibu, the author of The Tale of Genji: 

Sei Shonagon has the most extraordinary air of self-satisfaction. Yet, if we stop to examine 
those Chinese writings of hers that she, so presumptuously scatters about the place, we find 
that they are full of imperfections. Someone who makes such an effort to be different from 
others is bound to fall in people's esteem, and I can only think that her future will be a hard 
one. She is a gifted woman, to be sure. Yet, if one gives free rein to one's emotions even under 
the most in appropriate circumstances, if one has to sample each interesting thing that comes 
along, people are bound to regard one as frivolous. And how can things turn out well for such a 

This is almost our only information about Sei Shonagon except what is revealed by The 
Pillow Book itself. A vast collec tion of personal notes, her book covers the ten-odd years during 
which she served at Court, and reveals a complicated, intelligent, well-informed woman who 
was quick, impatient, keenly obser vant of detail, high-spirited, witty, emulative, sensitive to 
the charms and beauties of the world and to the pathos of things, yet intolerant and callous 
about people whom she regarded as her social or intellectual inferiors. 

Shonagon wrote during the great mid-Heian period of feminine vernacular literature 
that produced not only the world's first psychological novel. The Tale of Genji, but vast 
quantities of poetry and a series of diaries, mostly by Court ladies, which enable us to imagine 
what life was like for upper-class Japanese women a thousand years ago. In many ways, such as 

her love of pageantry and colour, her delight in poetry, her mixture of nasvety and 
sophistication, she resembled the other women writers we know. But The Pillow Book also 
suggests some notable differences. Shonagon's scorn for the lower orders, which has moved 
one indignant Japanese critic to describe her as a "spiritual cripple", and her adoration of the 
Imperial family were so pro nounced as to seem almost pathological. Her attitude to men, even 
to those of a somewhat higher class than hers, was com petitive to the point of overt hostility. 
And, partly owing to this combative spirit, her writing is free of the whining, querulous tone 
that often marks the work of her female contemporaries when they describe their relations 
with men. 

In a section of The Pillow Book that can be dated about 994 Shonagon writes: 

One day Lord Korechika, the Minister of the Centre, brought the Empress a bundle of 
notebooks. "What shall we do with them?" 

Her Majesty asked me. "The Emperor has already made arrangements for copying the "Records 
of the Historian"." 

"Let me make them into a pillow," I said. 

"Very well," said Her Majesty. "You may have them." 

I now had a vast quantity of paper at my disposal, and I set about filling the notebooks 
with odd facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most 
trivial material. On the whole I concentrated on things and people that I found charming and 
splendid; my notes are also full of poems and observations on trees and plants, birds and 

It is uncertain whether this passage is authentic; yet no doubt Shonagon started her book while 
still serving in the Court whose life she describes with such minute detail. We know that some 
of the sections were written many years later than the events they record, and the work was 
not completed until well after Shonagon's retirement following the Empress's death in 1000. 

Though this is the only collection of its type to have survived from the Heian period, it is 
possible that many others were written. Of the dozen or so works of prose fiction she lists in 
her book only one has come down to us; Heian miscellanies like The Pillow Book may have had 
an equally poor rate of survival. The title, Makura no Soshi ("notes of the pillow"), whether or 
not Shonagon actually used it herself, was probably a generic term to describe a type of 
informal book of notes which men and women composed when they retired to their rooms in 
the evening and which they kept near their sleeping place, possibly in the drawers of their 
wooden pillows, so that they might record stray impressions. This form of belles-lettres appears 
to have been indigenous to Japan. The Pillow Book is the precursor of a typically Japanese 
genre known as zuihitsu ("occasional writings", "random notes") which has lasted until the 
present day and which includes some of the most valued works in the country's literature. 

Apart from the 164 lists, which are perhaps its most striking feature, Shonagon's 
collection contains nature descriptions, diary entries, character sketches, and anecdotes, and 
provides such a detailed picture of upper-class Heian life that Arthur Waley has described it as 
"the most important document of the period that we possess". Its title, suggesting something 

rather light and casual, belies the length and variety of the book. The main edition that I have 
followed has 1,098 closely printed pages; admittedly much of it consists of annotation and 
commentary, but even the less encumbered texts consist of several hundred pages. 

The arrangement of the book in the main versions that we know is desultory and 
confusing. The datable sections are not in chronological order, and the lists have been placed 
with little attempt at logical sequence. It is of course possible that the book Shonagon actually 
wrote may have been organized in an entirely different way from the existing texts. The earliest 
extant manuscripts of The Pillow Book were produced some 500 years after she wrote, and 
there was no printed version until the seventeenth century. During the hundreds of intervening 
years scholars and scribes freely edited the manuscripts that came into their hands, often 
moving passages from one part of the book to another, incorporating glosses into the body of 
the text, omitting words or sentences they believed to be spurious; and they made mistakes in 
copying. All this has led to considerable differences among the texts, sometimes involving an 
almost total rearrangement of the sections. 

The eminent classicist. Professor Ikeda Kikan, established four main textual traditions: (i) 
Den Noin Hoshi Shojihon (the earliest extant copy is the sixteenth-century Sanjonishikebon); the 
Shunsho Shohon version, on which Kaneko Motoomi's monumental text is based, was produced 
by Kitamura Kigin in 1674, (ii) Antei Ninen Okugokibon (usually known as the Sankanbon; the 
earliest extant copy is dated 1475), (iii) Maedabon (this is the oldest extant version of The 
Pillow Book, the earliest manuscript dating from the mid thirteenth century), (iv) Sakaibon 
(earliest copy: 1570). Of these traditions (i) and (ii) are usually described as zassanteki 
("miscellaneous", "mixed"), (iii) and (iv) as bunruiteki ("classified", "grouped"). My own 
translation is based on (i) and (ii); in (iii) and (iv) Shonagon's sections on nature, people, things, 
etc. are rearranged under topic headings. 

The original text of The Pillow Book had disappeared well before the end of the Heian period, 
and by the beginning of the Kamakura period (twelfth century) numerous variants were already 
in circulation. Except in the unlikely event that a Heian manuscript of The Pillow Book is 
discovered, we shall never be sure which version is closest to the original. My own impression is 
that the book actually written by Shonagon was at least as un systematic and disordered as the 
Shunsho Shohon and Sangenbon texts. Much depends on whether Shonagon was, as she 
protests, writing only for herself, or whether she had other readers in mind. It is possible that 
The Pillow Book was begun casually as a sort of private notebook cum diary (the numerous lists 
of place names can hardly have been intended for anyone but herself); according to this theory, 
it was only after 996, when its existence became known at Court, that it developed into a more 
deliberate and literary work. In this case Shonagon may herself have rearranged some of the 
sections in her book in order to make it more coherent and readable. 

The structural confusion of The Pillow Book is generally regarded as its main stylistic 
weakness; yet surely part of its charm lies precisely in its rather bizarre, haphazard 
arrangement in which a list of "awkward things", for example, is followed by an account of the 
Emperor's return from a shrine, after which comes a totally unrelated incident about the 

Chancellor that occurred a year or two earlier and then a short, lyrical description of the dew on 
a clear autumn morning. 

About the extraordinary beauty and evocative power of Shonagon's language Japanese 
readers have always agreed. School children are still introduced to The Pillow Book as a model 
of linguistic purity; for, apart from proper names, titles, and quotations, there is hardly a single 
Chinese word or locution in the entire book. The language, rhythmic, quick-moving, varied, and 
compressed, is far clearer than that of The Tale of Genji with its long sentences and huge 
networks of dependent 

clauses; for this reason many Japanese consider Shonagon's book to be a greater work of 
literature. In his scintillating volume. The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, which contains 
translated extracts totalling about a quarter of the original work, Arthur Waley says: 

As a writer she is incomparably the best poet of her time, a fact which is apparent only 
in her prose and not at all in the conventional uta (31-syllable poems) for which she is also 
famous. Passages such as that about the stormy lake or the few lines about crossing a moonlit 
river show a beauty of phrasing that Murasaki, a much more deliberate writer, certainly never 

It is true that Shonagon revels in repeating certain words and phrases. Adjectives like 
okashi ("charming") and medetashi ("splendid") recur in nearly every sentence, almost 
invariably accompanied by the ubiquitous and virtually meaningless adverb ito ("very"); and 
often a single word will reappear in a sentence with a somewhat different meaning. This love of 
repetition, which most Western readers are bound to find tiresome, cannot simply be explained 
by the paucity of adjectives and adverbs in classical Japanese. In both Chinese and Japanese 
literature repetition was a deliberate stylistic device; and even as careful a craftsman as 
Murasaki Shikibu uses the same adjective again and again in consecutive sentences. In the 
writing of Sei Shonagon the reiteration of a word like okashi or a phrase like ito medetashi often 
serves as a sort of poetic refrain, giving a particular rhythm or mood to a passage rather than 
contributing specifically to its sense. 

This is one of the insuperable difficulties that confront the translator when he tries to 
convey the beauty of Shonagon's prose in a language as remote from Heian Japanese as 
modern English. Should he reproduce each okashi and each ito by a given English equivalent, 
however monotonous and banal the result may be for Western readers? Or should he conceal 
the repetitiveness of Shonagon's style by searching for synonyms or even by leaving out some 
of her favourite words when they seem 

to add little to the meaning? In broader terms, should he reproduce her sentences with the 
greatest possible mechanical accuracy, or try to suggest the poetic quality of her language at 
the cost of obscuring certain characteristic elements of her style? One possibility would be to 
produce both a literal and a literary version; but even the most long-suffering publisher could 
hardly welcome that solution. 

As usual in translation, one must compromise between the two extremes. When in doubt, I 
have tended to be "free". This is partly because the language of The Pillow Book, in which the 
most laconic phrasing is often combined with seeming redundancy, is peculiarly resistant to 
literalism. Any accurate translation would impose terrible ordeals on all but the most 
determined. Since Shonagon's book is noted for the limpid beauty of its language, a translation 
that adhered to the exact wording of the original, faithfully reproducing each particle, each 
repetition, each apparent ambiguity, would from a literary point of view be totally inaccurate. A 
language that afforded as little pleasure to the Japanese as the following passage does to 
English readers would hardly have preserved The Pillow Book from oblivion for a thousand 

the manner in which (they] did such things as deliver [honourable] letters and move about and 
behave was not awkward-seeming and (they] conversed and laughed[.] even wondering indeed 
when in the world [I] would mix thus was awkward[.] 

While I have not aspired to convey the beauty of Shonagon's prose, I have at least tried 
not to obscure it entirely by the stark, graceless literalism and the "rebarbative barricades of 
square brackets" that Mr Vladimir Nabokov, for one, appears to recommend. When the need to 
put Shonagon's sentences into readable English has obliged me to take unusual liberties with 
her text, I have appended a more or less literal translation in the notes. Students and other 
readers who require a close translation of the entire book should refer to Les Notes de chevet 
de Sei Shonagon (Paris, 1934), in which Docteur Andre Beaujard has conscientiously retained 
everything that was possible from the original and indicated necessary additions by a liberal, 
though not always consistent, use of brackets. 

In translating the quoted and original poems from The Pillow Book, I have abandoned all 
attempts to be literal and have tried instead to give their general meaning and to suggest a 
certain poetic rhythm. I have not preserved the line or word patterns of the poems unless they 
seemed to lend themselves naturally to those forms in English. There can be no literature in the 
world less suited to translation than classic Japanese poetry; and it is only because verse is such 
an integral part of The Pillow Book that I have ventured on an undertaking that is unlikely ever 
to succeed. Docteur Beaujard has provided ad verbum, prosaic versions, arranging them all, line 
by line, in the forms of the original poems. 

My complete translation (Oxford University Press and Columbia University Press, 1967) 
is based primarily on the Shunsho Shohon version as edited by Kaneko Motoomi in 1927 and on 
the Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei edition of the Sankanbon version edited by Ikeda Kikan and 
Kishigami Shinji in 1953. Publication in a single volume necessitated certain cuts. As a devotee 
of Sei Shonagon I found it hard to excise passages of her book; but in the hope that this new 
edition would make her work available to many more readers I removed the necessary number 
of pages from my original translation and from the accompanying notes. Most of the cuts are 
lists, especially lists of place names, words, titles, and the like that are interesting mainly to the 
specialist. Though Sei Shonagon would certainly have disapproved of such tampering with her 

text, which she might well have included in her list of Presumptuous Things, I am confident that 
I have not jettisoned a single passage of out standing interest or beauty. 

With a few exceptions I have avoided making any additions to the text. Japanese 
authors, especially those writing in the classical language, omit personal names and pronouns 
as much as possible; in direct quotations the identity of the speakers is usually left to the 
reader's imagination. All this has to be sup plied if the text is to be comprehensible in English. 
When Shonagon does identify her characters, she usually refers to them by their titles or 
offices. This helps to date the sections, but can result in great confusion since people frequently 
changed their posts; a gentleman who appears in one section as a Chamberlain, for example, 
may be described a few pages later as an Imperial Adviser and "Chamberlain" may now refer to 
an entirely different person. In my translation I normally identify men by their given names (e.g. 
Korechika) rather than by their titles (e.g. Major Counsellor). 

I have headed each of the sections with a title. In the lists these are the first words given 
by Shonagon herself (e.g. "Hateful Things"); in the other sections they are the first words of my 
translation (e.g. "Once during a Long Spell of Rainy Weather). I have also added my own 
numbers for each section. I have not indicated these various additions by square brackets; if 
brackets were used consistently, that is, if they enclosed every single word and punctuation 
mark not in the original, almost each sentence would have a dozen or more pairs and to read 
the text would be a suffering for all but the most resolute students. 

In translating titles, government offices, and the like I have normally followed the 
nomenclature in R. K. Reischauer's Early Japanese History, but I have occasionally altered his 
terms when they seemed cumbersome or misleading. Except when it was essential for clarifying 
puns, I have usually not translated proper names. This is not a result of "Translator's Despair" 
but because I wished to avoid the type of false exoticism that can result from identifying the 
Emperor's residence, for example, as "the Pure and Fresh Palace". Names should not be made 
to sound more colourful in translation than they do to the reader of the original Japanese. For 
the same reason months are identified by their numbers (e.g. Fifth Month), which are clearer, 
though admittedly less poetic, than literalisms like "Rice-sprouting Month". I have, however, 
given direct translations of the hours ("Hour of the Monkey", "Hour of the Sheep", etc.) since 
there is no simple Western equivalent for the zodiacal system of time keeping. My translations 
of trees, flowers, birds, and the like are often approximations; I have preferred to use words 
that correspond more or less to the Japanese original and that have a similar degree of 
familiarity (e.g. "cypress" for hinoki and "maple" for kae no ki) rather than technically exact 
equivalents (Chamaecyparis obtusa and Acer pictum), which would be meaningless to most 

Some fifty sections of The Pillow Book, representing about two fifths of its total length, 
can be dated by methods that are on the whole reliable. It would have been a simple matter to 
rearrange these sections in chronological order, possibly putting them all together in the first 
part of the book, which would then become a sort of diary. I have, however, preferred to retain 
the confused time-sequence of the traditional texts, not because this was necessarily the order 
in which Shonagon arranged her book, but because any systematic reorganization would be 

arbitrary and possibly misleading. If one thing is clear about the writing of The Pillow Book, it is 
that Shonagon was not keeping a daily, or even a monthly, record of events. To suggest that 
this was her intention would falsify the spirit of her work. Readers who wish to peruse the 
datable sections in chronological sequence can do so by consulting Appendix 5 (Chronology). 

The notes are numbered consecutively from 1 to 584 and have been placed separately, 
in order to avoid encumbering the text. Shonagon and her courtly contemporaries, who 
expected their world and its customs to continue as long as civilized society lasted, would no 
doubt have been shocked to find that such a large quantity of annotation and scholarly 
accessories was necessary to explain an informal, seemingly simple collection of lists, 
descriptions, and anecdotes; but without supplementary material of this kind much of The 
Pillow Book is obscure, even incomprehensible, not only to Westerners, but to modern 
Japanese readers as well. 

Any book from a civilization as remote in time, space, and almost every other respect as 
Heian Japan would normally require far more extensive annotation and introductory material 
than are provided here. Most of the lacunae are filled by my study of Court life in ancient Japan 
entitled The World of the Shining Prince (Penguin Books, 1969), which contains general 
background information about Sei Shonagon's society. The five appendices to the present 
edition give details about certain subjects that are particularly useful for understanding her 
book: (1) The Calendar; (2) The Government; (3) Places; (4) Clothes, Houses, etc.; (5) 


In addition to the scholars already mentioned, I should like to thank my friends in 
England, America, Japan, and Norway for all their help and encouragement during the five years 
spent with The Pillow Book. I am also most grateful to Professor Hans Bielenstein and to Fang 
Chao-ying for checking the Chinese quotations and references, to Dr Hakeda Yoshito for his 
advice on Sanskrit terms, and to Mrs Shirley Bridgwater and Mrs Karen Brazell for proof-reading 
a most complicated manuscript. Finally I am indebted to Professor Edwin Cranston for the many 
valuable suggestions and corrections contained in his review article on my Pillow Book of Sei 
Shonagon published by the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, vol. xxix, 1969. 

1. In Spring It Is the Dawn 

In spring it is the dawn that is most beautiful. [11 As the light creeps over the hills, their outlines 
are dyed a faint red and wisps of purplish cloud trail over them. 

In summer the nights. Not only when the moon shines, but on dark nights too, as the fireflies 
flit to and fro, and even when it rains, how beautiful it is! 

In autumn the evenings, when the glittering sun sinks close to the edge of the hills and the 
crows fly back to their nests in threes and fours and twos; more charming still is a file of wild 
geese, like specks in the distant sky. When the sun has set, one's heart is moved by the sound 
of the wind and the hum of the insects. 

In winter the early mornings. It is beautiful indeed when snow has fallen during the night, but 
splendid too when the ground is white with frost; or even when there is no snow or frost, but it 
is simply very cold and the attendants hurry from room to room stirring up the fires and 
bringing charcoal, how well this fits the season's mood! But as noon approaches and the cold 
wears off, no one bothers to keep the braziers alight, and soon nothing remains but piles of 
white ashes. 

2. Especially Delightful Is the First Day 

Especially delightful is the first day of the First Month, when the mists so often shroud the sky. 
Everyone pays great attention to his appearance and dresses with the utmost care. What a 
pleasure it is to see them all offer their congratulations to the Emperor and celebrate their own 
new year! [21 

I also enjoy the seventh day, when people pluck the young herbs that have sprouted fresh and 
green beneath the snow. [3] It is amusing to see their excitement when they find such plants 
growing near the Palace, by no means a spot where one might expect them. [41 

This is the day when members of the nobility who live outside the Palace arrive in their 
magnificently decorated carriages to admire the blue horses. [S1 As the carriages are drawn over 
the ground-beam of the Central Gate, [61 there is always a tremendous bump, and the heads of 
the women passengers are knocked together; the combs fall out of their hair, and may be 
smashed to pieces if the owners are not careful. I enjoy the way everyone laughs when this 

I remember one occasion when I visited the Palace to see the procession of blue horses. Several 
senior courtiers [7] were standing outside the guard house of the Left Division; they had 
borrowed bows from the escorts, and, with much laughter, were twanging them to make the 
blue horses prance. Looking through one of the gates of the Palace enclosure, I could dimly 
make out a garden fence, near which a number of ladies, several of them from the Office of 
Grounds, went to and fro. What lucky women, I thought, who could walk about the Nine-Fold 

Enclosure as though they had lived there all their lives! Just then the escorts passed close to my 
carriage - remarkably close, in fact, consider ing the vastness of the Palace grounds - and I could 
actually see the texture of their faces. Some of them were not properly powdered; here and 
there their skin showed through un pleasantly like the dark patches of earth in a garden where 
the snow has begun to melt. When the horses in the procession reared wildly, I shrank into the 
back of my carriage and could no longer see what was happening. 

On the eighth days 181 there is great excitement in the Palace as people hurry to express their 
gratitude, and the clatter of carriages is louder than ever—all very fascinating. 

The fifteenth day is the festival of the full-moon gruel, when a bowl of gruel 191 is presented to 
His Majesty. On this day all the women of the house carry gruel-sticks, which they hide carefully 
from each other. It is most amusing to see them walking about, as they await an opportunity to 
hit their companions. Each one is careful not to be struck herself and is constantly looking over 
her shoulder to make sure that no one is stealing up on her. Yet the precautions are useless, for 
before long one of the women manages to score a hit. She is extremely pleased with herself 
and laughs merrily. Everyone finds this delightful - except, of course, the victim, who looks very 
put out. 

In a certain household a young gentleman had been married during the previous year to one of 
the girls in the family. [10] Having spent the night with her, he was now, on the morning of the 
fifteenth, about to set off for the Palace. There was a woman 1111 in the house who was in the 
habit of lording it over everyone. On this occasion she was standing in the back of the room, 
impatiently awaiting an opportunity to hit the man with her gruel stick as he left. One of the 
other women realized what she had in mind and burst out laughing. The woman with the stick 
signalled excitedly that she should be quiet. Fortunately the young man did not notice what 
was afoot and he stood there unconcernedly. 

"I have to pick up something over there," said the woman with the stick, approaching the man. 
Suddenly she darted forward, gave him a great whack, and made her escape. Everyone in the 
room burst out laughing; even the young man smiled pleasantly, not in the least annoyed. He 
was not too startled; but he did blush a little, which was charming. 

Sometimes when the women are hitting each other the men also join in the fun. The strange 
thing is that, when a woman is hit, she often gets angry and bursts into tears; then she will 
upbraid her assailant and say the most awful things about him - most amusing. Even in the 
Palace, where the atmosphere is usually so solemn, everything is in confusion on this day, and 
no one stands on ceremony. 

It is fascinating to see what happens during the period of appointments. However snowy and 
icy it may be, candidates of the Fourth and Fifth Ranks come to the Palace with their official 
requests. Those who are still young and merry seem full of confidence. For the candidates who 
are old and white-haired things do not go so smoothly. Such men have to apply for help from 
people with influence at Court; some of them even visit ladies-in-waiting in their quarters and 

go to great lengths in pointing out their own merits. If young women happen to be present, 
they are greatly amused. As soon as the candidates have left, they mimic and deride them - 
something that the old men cannot possibly suspect as they scurry from one part of the Palace 
to another, begging everyone, "Please present my petition favourably to the Emperor"and 
"Pray inform Her Majesty about me." It is not so bad if they finally succeed, but it really is 
rather pathetic when all their efforts prove in vain. 

3. On the Third Day of the Third Month 

On the third day of the Third Month I like to see the sun shining bright and calm in the spring 
sky. Now is the time when the peach trees come into bloom, and what a sight it is! The willows 
too are most charming at this season, with the buds still enclosed like silkworms in their 
cocoons. After the leaves have spread out, I find them unattractive; in fact all trees lose their 
charm once the blossoms have begun to scatter. 

It is a great pleasure to break off a long, beautifully flowering branch from a cherry tree and to 
arrange it in a large vase. What a delightful task to perform when a visitor is seated nearby con 
versing! It may be an ordinary guest, or possibly one of their Highnesses, the Empress's [121 elder 
brothers; but in any case the visitor will wear a cherry-coloured 1131 Court cloak, from the bottom 
of which his under-robe emerges. I am even happier if a butterfly or a small bird flutters prettily 
near the flowers and I can see its face. 

4. How Delightful Everything Is! 

How delightful everything is at the time of the Festival 1 1141 The leaves, which still do not cover 
the trees too thickly, are green and fresh. In the daytime there is no mist to hide the sky and, 
glancing up, one is overcome by its beauty. On a slightly cloudy evening, or again at night, it is 
moving to hear in the distance the song of a hototogisu [15] —so faint that one doubts one's own 

When the Festival approaches, I enjoy seeing the men go to and fro with rolls of yellowish 
green and deep violet material which they have loosely wrapped in paper and placed in the lids 
of long boxes. At this time of the year, border shading, uneven shading, and rolled dyeing all 
seem more attractive than usual. 1161 The young girls who are to take part in the procession have 
had their hair washed and arranged; but they are still wearing their everyday clothes, which 
sometimes are in a great mess, wrinkled and coming apart at the seams. How excited they are 
as they run about the house, impatiently awaiting the great day, and rapping out orders to the 
maids: "Fit the cords on my clogs" or "See that the soles of my sandals are all right." Once they 
have put on their Festival costumes, these same young girls, instead of prancing about the 
rooms, become extremely demure and walk along solemnly like priests at the head of a 

procession. I also enjoy seeing how their mothers, aunts, and elder sisters, dressed according to 
their ranks, accompany the girls and help keep their costumes in order. 

5. Different Ways of Speaking 

A priest's language. The speech of men and of women. 1171 

The common people always tend to add extra syllables to their words. 

6. That Parents Should Bring Up Some Beloved Son 

That parents should bring up some beloved son of theirs to be a priest is really distressing. No 
doubt it is an auspicious 1181 thing to do; but unfortunately most people are convinced that a 
priest is as unimportant as a piece of wood, and they treat him accordingly. A priest lives poorly 
on meagre food, and cannot even sleep without being criticized. While he is young, it is only 
natural that he should be curious about all sorts of things, and, if there are women about, he 
will probably peep in their direction (though, to be sure, with a look of aversion on his face). 
What is wrong about that? Yet people immediately find fault with him for even so small a lapse. 

The lot of an exorcist is still more painful. On his pilgrimages to Mitake Kumano, and all the 
other sacred mountains he often undergoes the greatest hardships. When people come to hear 
that his prayers are effective, they summon him here and there to perform services of 
exorcism: the more popular he becomes, the less peace he enjoys. Sometimes he will be called 
to see a patient who is seriously ill and he has to exert all his powers to cast out the spirit that is 
causing the affliction. But if he dozes off, exhausted by his efforts, people say reproachfully, 
"Really, this priest does nothing but sleep." Such comments are most embarrassing for the 
exorcist, and I can imagine how he feel must. 

That is how things used to be; nowadays priests have a some what easier life. 

7. When the Empress Moved 

When the Empress moved into the house of the Senior Steward, Narimasa, the east gate of his 
courtyard had been made into a four-pillared structure, 1191 and it was here that Her Majesty's 
palanquin entered. The carriages in which I and the other ladies in-waiting were travelling 
arrived at the north gate. As there was no one in the guard-house, we decided to enter just as 
we were, without troubling to tidy ourselves; many of the women had let their hair become 
disordered during the journey, but they did not bother to rearrange it, since they assumed that 
the carriages would be pulled directly up to the veranda of the house. Unfortunately the gate 
was too narrow for our palm-leaf carriages. The attendants laid down mats for us from the gate 

to the house, and we had to get out and walk. It was extremely annoying and we were all very 
cross; but what could we do about it? To make matters worse, there was a group of men, 
including senior courtiers and even some of lower rank, standing next to the guard-house and 
staring at us in a most irritating fashion. 

When I entered the house and saw Her Majesty, I told her what had happened. "Do you 
suppose it is only people outside the house who can see what a state you are in?" she said. "I 
wonder what has made you all so careless today." 

"But, Your Majesty," I replied, "the people here are all used to us, and it would surprise them if 
we suddenly took great trouble over our appearance. In any case, it does seem rather strange 
that the gates of a house like this should be too small for a carriage. I shall have to tease your 
steward about it when I see him." 

At that very moment Narimasa arrived with an inkstone and other writing implements, which 
he thrust under the screen, saying, "Pray give these to Her Majesty." 

"Well, well," said I, you really are a disgraceful man! Why do you live in a house with such 
narrow gates?" 

"I have built my house to suit my station in life," he laughingly replied. 

"That's all very well," I said, "but I seem to have heard of some one who built his gate extremely 
high, out of all proportion to the rest of his house." 

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Narimasa. "How remarkable! You must be referring to Yu Ting- 
kuo. [20) I thought it was only veteran scholars who had heard about such things. Even I, Madam, 
should not have understood you except that I happen to have strayed in these paths myself." 

"Paths!" said I. "Yours leave something to be desired. When your servants spread out the mats 
for us, we couldn't see how uneven the ground was and we stumbled all over the place." 

"To be sure. Madam," said Narimasa. "It has been raining, and I am afraid it is a bit uneven. But 
let's leave it at that. You'll be making some other disagreeable remark in a moment. So I shall 
be off before you have time." And with this he went away. 

"What happened?" asked the Empress when I rejoined her. "Narimasa seemed terribly put 

"Oh no," I answered. "I was only telling him how our carriage could not get in." Then I withdrew 
to my own room. 

I shared this room with several of the younger ladies-in waiting. We were all sleepy and, 
without paying much attention to anything, dozed off immediately. Our room was in the east 
wing of the house. Though we were unaware of the fact, the clasp of the sliding-door in the 

back of the western ante-room [211 was missing. Of course the owner of the house knew about 
this, and presently he came and pushed open the door. 

"May I presume to come in?" he said several times in a strangely husky and excited voice. I 
looked up in amazement, and by the light of the lamp that had been placed behind the curtain 
of state [221 1 could see that Narimasa was standing outside the door, which he had now opened 
about half a foot. The situation amused me. As a rule he would not have dreamt of indulging in 
such lecherous behaviour; as the Empress was staying in his house, he evidently felt he could 
do as he pleased. Waking up the young women next to me, I exclaimed, "Look who is there! 
What an unlikely sight!" They all sat up and, seeing Narimasa by the door, burst into laughter. 
"Who are you?" I said. "Don't try to hide!" "Oh no," he replied. "It's simply that the master of 
the house has something to discuss with the lady in-waiting in charge." 

"It was your gate I was speaking about," I said. "I don't remember asking you to open the 

"Yes indeed," he answered. "It is precisely the matter of the gate that I wanted to discuss with 
you. May I not presume to come in for a moment?" 

"Really!" said one of the young women. "How unpleasant! No, he certainly cannot come in." 

"Oh, I see," said Narimasa. "There are other young ladies in the room." Closing the door behind 
him, he left, followed by our loud laughter. 

How absurd! Once he had opened the door, he should obviously have walked straight in, 
without bothering to ask for permission. After all, what woman would be likely to say, "It's all 
right. Please come in"? 

On the following day I told the Empress about the incident. "It does not sound like Narimasa at 
all," she said, laughing. "It must have been your conversation last night that roused his interest 
in you. Really, I can't help feeling sorry for the poor man. You have been awfully hard on him." 

One day when the Empress was giving orders about the costumes for the little girls who were 
to wait upon the Princess Imperial, [231 Narimasa asked, "Has Your Majesty decided on the 
colour of the garments 1241 that will cover the girls' vests?" This made us all laugh; and surely no 
one could blame us for being amused. Next Narimasa discussed the Princess's meals. "I believe 
it would look rather clumsy. Your Majesty, if they were served in ordinary utensils. If I may say 
so, she ought to have a smahl platter and a smahl tray." [25] 

"And be waited upon," I added, "by little girls with those garments that cover their vests." 

"You should not make fun of him as the others do," the Empress told me afterwards. "He is a 
very sincere man, and I feel sorry for him." I found even her reprimand delightful. 

Once when I was busy attending the Empress a messenger came and said that Narimasa had 
arrived and wished to tell me something. Overhearing this, the Empress said, "I wonder what 

he will do this time to make himself a laughing-stock. Find out what he has to say." Delighted by 
her remark, I decided to go out myself, rather than send a maid. "Madam," announced 
Narimasa, "I told my brother, the Middle Counsellor, [261 what you said the other night about 
the gate. He was most impressed and asked me to arrange a meeting for him at some 
convenient time when he could hear what you had to say." 

I wondered whether Narimasa would make some reference to his own visit the other night and 
I felt my heart pounding; but he said nothing further, merely adding as he left, "I should like to 
come and see you quietly one of these days." 

"Well," said the Empress when I returned, "what happened?" I told her exactly what Narimasa 
had said, adding with a smile, "I should hardly have thought it was so important that he had to 
send a special message for me when I was in attendance. Surely he could have waited until I 
had settled down quietly in my own room." 

"He probably thought you would be pleased to hear of his brother's high opinion and wanted to 
let you know at once. He has the greatest respect for his brother, you know." Very charming 
the Empress looked as she said this. 

8. The Cat Who Lived in the Palace 

The cat who lived in the Palace had been awarded the head dress of nobility and was called 
Lady Myobu. She was a very pretty cat, and His Majesty saw to it that she was treated with the 
greatest care. 1271 

One day she wandered on to the veranda, and Lady Uma, the nurse in charge of her, called out, 
"Oh, you naughty thing! Please come inside at once. But the cat paid no attention and went on 
basking sleepily in the sun. Intending to give her a scare, the nurse called for the dog, 

"Okinamaro, where are you?" she cried. "Come here and bite Lady Myobu!" The foolish 
Okinamaro, believing that the nurse was in earnest, rushed at the cat, who, startled and 
terrified, ran behind the blind in the Imperial Dining Room, [281 where the Emperor happened to 
be sitting. Greatly surprised. His Majesty picked up the cat and held her in his arms. He 
summoned his gentlemen-in-waiting. When Tadataka, the Chamberlain , [29] appeared. His 
Majesty ordered that Okinamaro be chastised and banished to Dog Island. The attendants all 
started to chase the dog amid great confusion. His Majesty also reproached Lady Uma. "We 
shall have to find a new nurse for our cat," he told her. "I no longer feel I can count on you to 
look after her." Lady Uma bowed; thereafter she no longer appeared in the Emperor's 

The Imperial Guards quickly succeeded in catching Okinamaro and drove him out of the Palace 
grounds. Poor dog! He used to swagger about so happily. Recently, on the third day of the Third 

Month, [301 when the Controller First Secretary paraded him through the Palace grounds, 
Okinamaro was adorned with garlands of willow leaves, peach blossoms on his head, and 
cherry blossoms round his body. How could the dog have imagined that this would be his fate? 
We all felt sorry for him. When Her Majesty was having her meals," recalled one of the ladies- 
in-waiting, "Okinamaro always used to be in attendance and sit opposite us. How I miss him!" 

It was about noon, a few days after Okinamaro's banishment, that we heard a dog howling 
fearfully. How could any dog possibly cry so long? All the other dogs rushed out in excitement 
to see what was happening. Meanwhile a woman who served as a cleaner in the Palace latrines 
ran up to us. "It's terrible," she said. "Two of the Chamberlains are flogging a dog. They'll surely 
kill him. He's being punished for having come back after he was banished. It's Tadataka and 
Sanefusa who are beating him." Obviously the victim was Okinamaro. I was absolutely 
wretched and sent a servant to ask the men to stop; but just then the howling finally ceased. 
"He's dead," one of the servants informed me. "They've thrown his body outside the gate." - 
That evening, while we were sitting in the Palace bemoaning Okinamaro's fate, a wretched- 
looking dog walked in; he was trembling all over, and his body was fearfully swollen. 

"Oh dear," said one of the ladies-in-waiting. "Can this be Okinamaro? We haven't seen any 
other dog like him recently, have we?" 

We called to him by name, but the dog did not respond. Some of us insisted that it was 
Okinamaro, others that it was not. "Please send for Lady Ukon," [311 said the Empress, hearing 
our discussion. "She will certainly be able to tell." We immediately went to Ukon's room and 
told her she was wanted on an urgent matter. 

"Is this Okinamaro?" the Empress asked her, pointing to the dog. 

"Well," said Ukon, "it certainly looks like him, but I cannot believe that this loathsome creature 
is really our Okinamaro. When I called Okinamaro, he always used to come to me, wagging his 
tail. But this dog does not react at all. No, it cannot be the same one. And besides, wasn't 
Okinamaro beaten to death and his body thrown away? How could any dog be alive after being 
flogged by two strong men?" Hearing this. Her Majesty was very unhappy. 

When it got dark, we gave the dog something to eat; but he refused it, and we finally decided 
that this could not be Okinamaro. 

On the following morning I went to attend the Empress while her hair was being dressed and 
she was performing her ablutions. I was holding up the mirror for her when the dog we had 
seen on the previous evening slunk into the room and crouched next to one of the pillars. "Poor 
Okinamaro!" I said. "He had such a dreadful beating yesterday. How sad to think he is dead! I 
wonder what body he has been born into this time. Oh, how he must have suffered!" 

At that moment the dog lying by the pillar started to shake and tremble, and shed a flood of 
tears. It was astounding. So this really was Okinamaro! On the previous night it was to avoid 
betraying himself that he had refused to answer to his name. We were immensely moved and 

pleased. "Well, well, Okinamaro!" I said, putting down the mirror. The dog stretched himself 
flat on the floor and yelped loudly, so that the Empress beamed with delight. All the ladies 
gathered round, and Her Majesty summoned Lady Ukon. When the Empress explained what 
had happened, everyone talked and laughed with great excitement. 

The news reached His Majesty, and he too came to the Empress's room. "It's amazing," he said 
with a smile. "To think that even a dog has such deep feelings!" When the Emperor's ladies in¬ 
waiting heard the story, they too came along in a great crowd. "Okinamaro!" we called, and this 
time the dog rose and limped about the room with his swollen face. "He must have a meal 
prepared for him," I said. "Yes," said the Empress, laughing happily, "now that Okinamaro has 
finally told us who he is." 

The Chamberlain, Tadataka, was informed, and he hurried along from the Table Room. [321 "Is it 
really true?" he asked. Please let me see for myself." I sent a maid to him with the following 
reply: "Alas, I am afraid that this is not the same dog after all." "Well," answered Tadataka, 
"whatever you say, I shall sooner or later have occasion to see the animal. You won't be able to 
hide him from me indefinitely." 

Before long, Okinamaro was granted an Imperial pardon and returned to his former happy 
state. Yet even now, when I remember how he whimpered and trembled in response to our 
sympathy, it strikes me as a strange and moving scene; when people talk to me about it, I start 
crying myself. 

9. On the First Day of the First Month 1331 

On the first day of the First Month and on the third of the Third I like the sky to be perfectly 

On the fifth of the Fifth Month I prefer a cloudy sky. 

On the seventh day of the Seventh Month it should also be cloudy; but in the evening it should 
clear, so that the moon shines brightly in the sky and one can see the outline of the stars. [34] 

On the ninth of the Ninth Month there should be a drizzle from early dawn. Then there will be 
heavy dew on the chrysanthemums, while the floss silk that covers them will be wet through 
and drenched also with the precious scent of blossoms. [351 Sometimes the rain stops early in 
the morning, but the sky is still overcast, and it looks as if it may start raining again at any 
moment. This too I find very pleasant. 

10. I Enjoy Watching the Officials 

I enjoy watching the officials when they come to thank the Emperor for their new 
appointments. As they stand facing His Majesty with their batons 1361 in their hands, the trains of 
their robes trail along the floor. Then they make obeisance and begin their ceremonial 
movements 1371 with great animation. 

11. The Sliding Screen in the Back of the Hall 

The sliding screen in the back of the hall in the north-east corner of Seiryo Palace is decorated 
with paintings of the stormy sea and of the terrifying creatures with long arms and long legs 
that live there. 1381 When the doors of the Empress's room were open, we could always see this 
screen. One day we were sitting in the room, laughing at the paintings and remarking how un 
pleasant they were. By the balustrade of the veranda stood a large celadon vase, full of 
magnificent cherry branches; some of them were as much as five foot long, and their blossoms 
over flowed to the very foot of the railing. Towards noon the Major Counsellor, 1391 Fujiwara no 
Korechika, arrived. He was dressed in a cherry-coloured Court cloak, sufficiently worn to have 
lost its stiffness, a white under-robe, and loose trousers of dark purple; from beneath the cloak 
shone the pattern of another robe of dark red damask. Since His Majesty was present, 

Korechika knelt on the narrow wooden platform before the door and reported to him on official 

A group of ladies-in-waiting was seated behind the bamboo blinds. Their cherry-coloured 
Chinese jackets hung loosely over their shoulders with the collars pulled back; they wore robes 
of wisteria, golden yellow, and other colours, many of which showed beneath the blind 
covering the half-shutter. Presently the noise of the attendants' feet told us that dinner was 
about to be served in the Daytime Chamber, 1401 and we heard cries of "Make way. Make way." 

The bright, serene day delighted me. When the Chamberlains had brought all the dishes into 
the Chamber, they came to announce that dinner was ready, and His Majesty left by the middle 
door. After accompanying the Emperor, Korechika returned to his previous place on the 
veranda beside the cherry blossoms. The Empress pushed aside her curtain of state and came 
forward as far as the threshold. 1411 We were overwhelmed by the whole delightful scene. It was 
then that Korechika slowly intoned the words of the old poem. 

The days and the months flow by. 

But Mount Mimoro lasts forever. 1421 

Deeply impressed, I wished that all this might indeed continue for a thousand years. 

As soon as the ladies serving in the Daytime Chamber had called for the gentlemen-in-waiting 
to remove the trays. His Majesty returned to the Empress's room. Then he told me to rub some 
ink on the inkstone. Dazzled, I felt that I should never be able to take my eyes off his radiant 

countenance. Next he folded a piece of white paper. "I should like each of you," he said, "to 
copy down on this paper the first ancient poem that comes into your head." 

"How am I going to manage this?" I asked Korechika, who was still out on the veranda. 

"Write your poem quickly," he said, "and show it to His Majesty. We men must not interfere in 
this." Ordering an attendant to take the Emperor's inkstone to each of the women in the room, 
he told us to make haste. "Write down any poem you happen to remember," he said. "The 
Naniwazu 1431 or whatever else you can think of." 

For some reason I was overcome with timidity; I flushed and had no idea what to do. Some of 
the other women managed to put down poems about the spring, the blossoms, and such 
suitable subjects; then they handed me the paper and said, "Now it's your turn." Picking up the 
brush, I wrote the poem that goes. 

The years have passed 

And age has come my way. 

Yet I need only look at this fair flower 

For all my cares to melt away. 

I altered the third line, however, to read, "Yet I need only look upon my lord." [441 

When he had finished reading, the Emperor said, "I asked you to write these poems because I 
wanted to find out how quick you really were. 

"A few years ago," he continued, "Emperor Enyu ordered all his courtiers to write poems in a 
notebook. Some excused them selves on the grounds that their handwriting was poor; but the 
Emperor insisted, saying that he did not care in the slightest about their handwriting or even 
whether their poems were suitable for the season. So they all had to swallow their 
embarrassment and produce something for the occasion. Among them was His Excellency, our 
present Chancellor, who was then Middle Captain of the Third Rank. [45] He wrote down the old 

Like the sea that beats 
Upon the shores of Izumo 
As the tide sweeps in. 

Deeper it grows and deeper - 
The love I bear for you. 

But he changed the last line to read, "The love I bear my lord!", and the Emperor was full of 

When I heard His Majesty tell this story, I was so overcome that I felt myself perspiring. It 
occurred to me that no younger woman 1461 would have been able to use my poem and I felt 
very lucky. This sort of test can be a terrible ordeal: it often happens that people who usually 
write fluently are so overawed that they actually make mistakes in their characters. 

Next the Empress placed a notebook of Kokin Shu poems before her and started reading out 
the first three lines of each one, asking us to supply the remainder. Among them were several 
famous poems that we had in our minds day and night; yet for some strange reason we were 
often unable to fill in the missing lines. Lady Saisho, for example, could manage only ten, which 
hardly qualified her as knowing her Kokin Shu. Some of the other women, even less successful, 
could remember only about half a dozen poems. They would have done better to tell the 
Empress quite simply that they had forgotten the lines; instead they came out with great 
lamentations like "Oh dear, how could we have done so badly in answering the questions that 
Your Majesty was pleased to put to us?" - all of which I found rather absurd. 

When no one could complete a particular poem, the Empress continued reading to the end. 

This produced further wails from the women: "Oh, we all knew that one! How could we be so 

"Those of you," said the Empress, "who had taken the trouble to copy out the Kokin Shu several 
times would have been able to complete every single poem I have read. In the reign of Emperor 
Murakami there was a woman at Court known as the Imperial Lady 1471 of Senyo Palace. She was 
the daughter of the Minister of the Left who lived in the Smaller Palace of the First Ward, and 
of course you have all heard of her. When she was still a young girl, her father gave her this 
advice: "First you must study penmanship. Next you must learn to play the seven-string zither 
better than anyone else. And also you must memorize all the poems in the twenty volumes of 
the Kokin Shu." 

"Emperor Murakami," continued Her Majesty, "had heard this story and remembered it years 
later when the girl had grown up and become an Imperial Concubine. Once, on a day of 
abstinence , 1481 he came into her room, hiding a notebook of Kokin Shu poems in the folds of his 
robe. He surprised her by seating him self behind a curtain of state; then, opening the book, he 
asked, "Tell me the verse written by such-and-such a poet, in such and-such a year and on such- 
and-such an occasion." The lady understood what was afoot and that it was all in fun, yet the 
possibility of making a mistake or forgetting one of the poems must have worried her greatly. 
Before beginning the test, the Emperor had summoned a couple of ladies-in-waiting who were 
particularly adept in poetry and told them to mark each incorrect reply by a go stone . 1491 What 
a splendid scene it must have been! You know, I really envy anyone who attended that Emperor 
even as a lady-in-waiting. 

"Well," Her Majesty went on, "he then began questioning her. She answered without any 
hesitation, just giving a few words, or phrases to show that she knew each poem. And never 
once did she make a mistake. After a time the Emperor began to resent the lady's flawless 

memory and decided to stop as soon as he detected any error or vagueness in her replies. Yet, 
after he had gone through ten books of the Kokin Shu, he had still not caught her out. At this 
stage he declared that it would be useless to continue. Marking where he had left off, he went 
to bed. What a triumph for the lady! 

"He slept for some time. On waking, he decided that he must have a final verdict and that if he 
waited until the following day to examine her on the other ten volumes, she might use the time 
to refresh her memory. So he would have to settle the matter that very night. Ordering his 
attendants to bring up the bedroom lamp, he resumed his questions. By the time he had 
finished all twenty volumes, the night was well advanced; and still the lady had not made a 

"During all this time His Excellency, the lady's father, was in a state of great agitation. As soon 
as he was informed that the Emperor was testing his daughter, he sent his attendants to 
various temples to arrange for special recitations of the Scriptures. Then he turned in the 
direction of the Imperial Palace and spent a long time in prayer. Such enthusiasm for poetry is 
really rather moving." 

The Emperor, who had been listening to the whole story, was much impressed. "How can he 
possibly have read so many poems?" he remarked when Her Majesty had finished. "I doubt 
whether I could get through three or four volumes. But of course things have changed. In the 
old days even people of humble station had a taste for the arts and were interested in elegant 
pastimes. Such a story would hardly be possible nowadays, would it?" 

The ladies in attendance on Her Majesty and the Emperor's own ladies-in-waiting who had 
been admitted into Her Majesty's presence began chatting eagerly, and as I listened I felt that 
my cares had really "melted away". 

12. When I Make Myself Imagine 

When I make myself imagine what it is like to be one of those women who live at home, 
faithfully serving their husbands - women who have not a single exciting prospect in life yet 
who believe that they are perfectly happy-l am filled with scorn. Often they are of quite good 
birth, yet have had no opportunity to find out what the world is like. I wish they could live for a 
while in our society, even if it should mean taking service as Attendants, [501 so that they might 
come to know the delights it has to offer. 

I cannot bear men who believe that women serving in the Palace are bound to be frivolous and 
wicked. Yet I suppose their prejudice is understandable. After all, women at Court do not spend 
their time hiding modestly behind fans and screens, but walk about, looking openly at people 
they chance to meet. Yes, they see everyone face to face, not only ladies-in-waiting like 
themselves, but even Their Imperial Majesties (whose august names I hardly dare mention). 
High Court Nobles, [51] senior courtiers, and other gentlemen of high rank. In the presence of 

such exalted personages the women in the Palace are all equally brazen, whether they be the 
maids of ladies-in-waiting, or the relations of Court ladies who have come to visit them, or 
house keepers, or latrine-cleaners, or women who are of no more value than a roof-tile or a 
pebble. Small wonder that the young men regard them as immodest! Yet are the gentlemen 
themselves any less so? They are not exactly bashful when it comes to looking at the great 
people in the Palace. No, everyone at Court is much the same in this respect. 

Women who have served in the Palace, but who later get married and live at home, are called 
Madam and receive the most respectful treatment. To be sure, people often consider that 
these women, who have displayed their faces to all and sundry during their years at Court, are 
lacking in feminine grace. How proud they must be, nevertheless, when they are styled 
Assistant Attendants, or summoned to the Palace for occasional duty, or ordered to serve as 
Imperial envoys during the Kamo Festival! Even those who stay at home lose nothing by having 
served at Court. In fact they make very good wives. For example, if they are married to a 
provincial governor and their daughter is chosen to take part in the Gosechi dances, 1521 they do 
not have to disgrace themselves by acting like provincials and asking other people about 
procedure. They themselves are well versed in the formalities, which is just as it should be. 

13. Depressing Things 

A dog howling in the daytime. A wickerwork fish-net in spring. 1531 A red plum-blossom dress 1541 
in the Third or Fourth Months. A lying-in room when the baby has died. A cold, empty brazier. 
An ox-driver who hates his oxen. A scholar whose wife has one girl child after another. [55] 

One has gone to a friend's house to avoid an unlucky direction, [561 but nothing is done to 
entertain one; if this should happen at the time of a Seasonal Change, it is still more depressing. 

A letter arrives from the provinces, but no gift accompanies it. It would be bad enough if such a 
letter reached one in the provinces from someone in the capital; but then at least it would have 
interesting news about goings-on in society, and that would be a consolation. 

One has written a letter, taking pains to make it as attractive as possible, and now one 
impatiently awaits the reply. "Surely the messenger should be back by now," one thinks. Just 
then he returns; but in his hand he carries, not a reply, but one's own letter, still twisted or 
knotted 1571 as it was sent, but now so dirty and crumpled that even the ink-mark on the outside 
has disappeared. "Not at home," announces the messenger, or else, "They said they were 
observing a day of abstinence and would not accept it." Oh, how depressing! 

Again, one has sent one's carriage to fetch someone who had said he would definitely pay one 
a visit on that day. Finally it returns with a great clatter, and the servants hurry out with cries of 
"Here they come!" But next one hears the carriage being pulled into the coach-house, and the 
unfastened shafts clatter to the ground. "What does this mean?" one asks. "The person was not 

at home," replies the driver, "and will not be coming." So saying, he leads the ox back to its 
stall, leaving the carriage in the coach-house. 

With much bustle and excitement a young man has moved into the house of a certain family as 
the daughter's husband. One day he fails to come home, and it turns out that some high- 
ranking Court lady has taken him as her lover. How depressing! "Will he eventually tire of the 
woman and come back to us?" his wife's family wonder ruefully. 

The nurse who is looking after a baby leaves the house, saying that she will be back presently. 
Soon the child starts crying for her. One tries to comfort it by games and other diversions, and 
even sends a message to the nurse telling her to return immediately. Then comes her reply: "I 
am afraid that I cannot be back this evening". This is not only depressing; it is no less than 
hateful. Yet how much more distressed must be the young man who has sent a messenger to 
fetch a lady friend and who awaits her arrival in vain! 

It is quite late at night and a woman has been expecting a visitor. Hearing finally a stealthy 
tapping, she sends her maid to open the gate and lies waiting excitedly. But the name 
announced by the maid is that of someone with whom she has absolutely no connexion. Of all 
the depressing things this is by far the worst. 

With a look of complete self-confidence on his face an exorcist prepares to expel an evil spirit 
from his patient. Handing his mace, rosary, and other paraphernalia to the medium who is 
assisting him, he begins to recite his spells in the special shrill tone that he forces from his 
throat on such occasions. For all the exorcist's efforts, the spirit gives no sign of leaving, and the 
Guardian Demon fails to take possession of the medium. [581 The relations and friends of the 
patient, who are gathered in the room praying, find this rather unfortunate. After he has 
recited his incantations for the length of an entire watch, [59] the exorcist is worn out. "The 
Guardian Demon is completely inactive," he tells his medium. "You may leave." Then, as he 
takes back his rosary, he adds, "Well, well, it hasn't worked!" He passes his hand over his 
forehead, then yawns deeply (he of all people!) and leans back against a pillar for a nap. 

Most depressing is the household of some hopeful candidate who fails to receive a post during 
the period of official appointments. [60) Hearing that the gentleman was bound to be successful, 
several people have gathered in his house for the occasion; among them are a number of 
retainers who served him in the past but who since then have either been engaged elsewhere 
or moved to some remote province. Now they are all eager to accompany their former master 
on his visit to the shrines and temples, and their carriages pass to and fro in the courtyard. 
Indoors there is a great commotion as the hangers-on help them selves to food and drink. Yet 
the dawn of the last day of the appointments arrives and still no one has knocked at the gate. 

The people in the house are nervous and prick up their ears. 

Presently they hear the shouts of fore-runners and realize that the high dignitaries are leaving 
the Palace. Some of the servants were sent to the Palace on the previous evening to hear the 

news and have been waiting all night, trembling with cold; now they come trudging back 
listlessly. The attendants who have remained faithfully in the gentleman's service year after 
year cannot bring themselves to ask what has happened. His former retainers, however, are not 
so diffident. "Tell us," they say, "what appointment did His Excellency receive?" "Indeed," 
murmur the servants, "His Excellency was Governor of such-and-such a province". Everyone 
was counting on his receiving a new appointment, [611 and is desolated by this failure. On the 
following day the people who had crowded into the house begin to slink away in twos and 
threes. The old attendants, however, cannot leave so easily. They walk restlessly about the 
house, counting on their fingers the provincial appointments that will become available in the 
following year. Pathetic and depressing in the extreme! 

One has sent a friend a verse that turned out fairly well. How depressing when there is no 
reply-poem I [62] Even in the case of love poems, people should at least answer that they were 
moved at receiving the message, or something of the sort; otherwise they will cause the 
keenest disappointment. 

Someone who lives in a bustling, fashionable household receives a message from an elderly 
person who is behind the times and has very little to do; the poem, of course, is old fashioned 
and dull. How depressing! 

One needs a particularly beautiful fan for some special occasion and instructs an artist, in 
whose talents one has full confidence, to decorate one with an appropriate painting. When the 
day comes and the fan is delivered, one is shocked to see how badly it has been painted. Oh, 
the dreariness of it! 

A messenger arrives with a present at a house where a child has been born or where someone 
is about to leave on a journey. How depressing for him if he gets no reward! [63] People should 
always reward a messenger, though he may bring only herbal balls or hare-sticks. [641 If he 
expects nothing, he will be particularly pleased to be rewarded. On the other hand, what a 
terrible let down if he arrives with a self-important look on his face, his heart pounding in 
anticipation of a generous reward, only to have his hopes dashed! 

A man has moved in as a son-in-law; yet even now, after some five years of marriage, the lying- 
in room has remained as quiet as on the day of his arrival. [651 

An elderly couple who have several grown-up children, and who may even have some 
grandchildren crawling about the house, are taking a nap in the daytime. The children who see 
them in this state are overcome by a forlorn feeling, and for other people it is all very 
depressing. [66] 

To take a hot bath when one has just woken is not only depressing; it actually puts one in a bad 

Persistent rain on the last day of the year. [671 

One has been observing a period of fast, but neglects it for just one day—most depressing. [681 
A white under-robe in the Eighth Month. [69] 

A wet-nurse who has run out of milk. 

14. Hateful Things 

One is in a hurry to leave, but one's visitor keeps chattering away. If it is someone of no 
importance, one can get rid of him by saying, "You must tell me all about it next time"; but, 
should it be the sort of visitor whose presence commands one's best behaviour, the situation is 
hateful indeed. 

One finds that a hair has got caught in the stone on which one is rubbing one's inkstick, or again 
that gravel is lodged in the inkstick, making a nasty, grating sound. 

Someone has suddenly fallen ill and one summons the exorcist. Since he is not at home, one 
has to send messengers to look for him. After one has had a long fretful wait, the exorcist finally 
arrives, and with a sigh of relief one asks him to start his incantations. But perhaps he has been 
exorcizing too many evil spirits recently; for hardly has he installed himself and begun praying 
when his voice becomes drowsy. Oh, how hateful! 

A man who has nothing in particular to recommend him discusses all sorts of subjects at 
random as though he knew every thing. 

An elderly person warms the palms of his hands over a brazier and stretches out the wrinkles. 
No young man would dream of behaving in such a fashion; old people can really be quite 
shamless. I have seen some dreary old creatures actually resting their feet on the brazier and 
rubbing them against the edge while they speak. These are the kind of people who in visiting 
someone's house first use their fans to wipe away the dust from the mat and, when they finally 
sit on it, cannot stay still but are forever spreading out the front of their hunting costume 1701 or 
even tucking it up under their knees. One might suppose that such behaviour was restricted to 
people of humble station; but I have observed it in quite well-bred people, including a Senior 
Secretary of the Fifth Rank in the Ministry of Ceremonial and a former Governor of Suruga. 

I hate the sight of men in their cups who shout, poke their fingers in their mouths, stroke their 
beards, and pass on the wine to their neighbours with great cries of "Have some more! Drink 
up!" They tremble, shake their heads, twist their faces, and gesticulate like children who are 
singing, "We're off to see the Governor." I have seen really well-bred people behave like this 
and I find it most distasteful. 

To envy others and to complain about one's own lot; to speak badly about people; to be 
inquisitive about the most trivial matters and to resent and abuse people for not telling one, or. 

if one does manage to worm out some facts, to inform everyone in the most detailed fashion as 
if one had known all from the beginning - oh, how hateful! 

One is just about to be told some interesting piece of news when a baby starts crying. 

A flight of crows circle about with loud caws. 

An admirer has come on a clandestine visit, but a dog catches sight of him and starts barking. 
One feels like killing the beast. 

One has been foolish enough to invite a man to spend the night in an unsuitable place - and 
then he starts snoring. 

A gentleman has visited one secretly. Though he is wearing a tall, lacquered hat, [711 he 
nevertheless wants no one to see him. He is so flurried, in fact, that upon leaving he bangs into 
some thing with his hat. Most hateful I It is annoying too when he lifts up the lyo blind [72] that 
hangs at the entrance of the room, then lets it fall with a great rattle. If it is a head-blind, things 
are still worse, for being more solid it makes a terrible noise when it is dropped. There is no 
excuse for such carelessness. Even a head-blind does not make any noise if one lifts it up gently 
on entering and leaving the room; the same applies to sliding-doors. If one's movements are 
rough, even a paper door will bend and resonate when opened; but, if one lifts the door a little 
while pushing it, there need be no sound. 

One has gone to bed and is about to doze off when a mosquito appears, announcing himself in 
a reedy voice. One can actually feel the wind made by his wings and, slight though it is, one 
finds it hateful in the extreme. 

A carriage passes with a nasty, creaking noise. Annoying to think that the passengers may not 
even be aware of this! If I am travelling in someone's carriage and I hear it creaking, I dislike not 
only the noise but also the owner of the carriage. 

One is in the middle of a story when someone butts in and tries to show that he is the only 
clever person in the room. Such a person is hateful, and so, indeed, is anyone, child or adult, 
who tries to push himself forward. 

One is telling a story about old times when someone breaks in with a little detail that he 
happens to know, implying that one's own version is inaccurate - disgusting behaviour! 

Very hateful is a mouse that scurries all over the place. 

Some children have called at one's house. One makes a great fuss of them and gives them toys 
to play with. The children become accustomed to this treatment and start to come regularly, 
forcing their way into one's inner rooms and scattering one's furnishings and possessions. 

A certain gentleman whom one does not want to see visits one at home or in the Palace, and 
one pretends to be asleep. But a maid comes to tell one and shakes one awake, with a look on 
her face that says, "What a sleepyhead!" Very hateful. 

A newcomer pushes ahead of the other members in a group; with a knowing look, this person 
starts laying down the law and forcing advice upon everyone - most hateful. 

A man with whom one is having an affair keeps singing the praises of some woman he used to 
know. Even if it is a thing of the past, this can be very annoying. How much more so if he is still 
seeing the woman! (Yet sometimes I find that it is not as unpleasant as all that.) 

A person who recites a spell himself after sneezing. [731 In fact I detest anyone who sneezes, 
except the master of the house. 

Fleas, too, are very hateful. When they dance about under someone's clothes, they really seem 
to be lifting them up. 

The sound of dogs when they bark for a long time in chorus is ominous and hateful. 

I cannot stand people who leave without closing the panel behind them. 

How I detest the husbands of nurse-maids! It is not so bad if the child in the maid's charge is a 
girl, because then the man will keep his distance. But, if it is a boy, he will behave as though he 
were the father. Never letting the boy out of his sight, he insists on managing everything. He 
regards the other attendants in the house as less than human, and, if anyone tries to scold the 
child, he slanders him to the master. Despite this disgraceful behaviour, no one dare accuse the 
husband; so he strides about the house with a proud, self-important look, giving all the orders. 

I hate people whose letters show that they lack respect for worldly civilities, whether by 
discourtesy in the phrasing or by extreme politeness to someone who does not deserve it. This 
sort of thing is, of course, most odious if the letter is for oneself, but it is bad enough even if it is 
addressed to someone else. 

As a matter of fact, most people are too casual, not only in their letters but in their direct 
conversation. Sometimes I am quite disgusted at noting how little decorum people observe 
when talking to each other. It is particularly unpleasant to hear some foolish man or woman 
omit the proper marks of respect when addressing a person of quality; and, when servants fail 
to use honorific forms of speech in referring to their masters, it is very bad indeed. No less 
odious, however, are those masters who, in addressing their servants, use such phrases as 
"When you were good enough to do such-and-such" or "As you so kindly re marked". No doubt 
there are some masters who, in describing their own actions to a servant, say, "I presumed to 
do so-and so"! [74] 

Sometimes a person who is utterly devoid of charm will try to create a good impression by 
using very elegant language; yet he only succeeds in being ridiculous. No doubt he believes this 

refined language to be just what the occasion demands, but, when it goes so far that everyone 
bursts out laughing, surely something must be wrong. 

It is most improper to address high-ranking courtiers. Imperial Advisers, and the like simply by 
using their names without any titles or marks of respect; but such mistakes are fortunately rare. 

If one refers to the maid who is in attendance on some lady-in waiting as "Madam" or "that 
lady", she will be surprised, delighted, and lavish in her praise. 

When speaking to young noblemen and courtiers of high rank, one should always (unless Their 
Majesties are present) refer to them by their official posts. Incidentally, I have been very 
shocked to hear important people use the word "I" while conversing in Their Majesties' 
presence. 1751 Such a breach of etiquette is really distressing, and I fail to see why people cannot 
avoid it. 

A man who has nothing in particular to recommend him but who speaks in an affected tone and 
poses as being elegant. 

An inkstone with such a hard, smooth surface that the stick glides over it without leaving any 
deposit of ink. 

Ladies-in-waiting who want to know everything that is going on. 

Sometimes one greatly dislikes a person for no particular reason - and then that person goes 
and does something hateful. 

A gentleman who travels alone in his carriage to see a procession or some other spectacle. 

What sort of a man is he? Even though he may not be a person of the greatest quality, surely he 
should have taken along a few of the many young men who are anxious to see the sights. But 
no, there he sits by himself (one can see his silhouette through the blinds), with a proud look on 
his face, keeping all his impressions to himself. 

A lover who is leaving at dawn announces that he has to find his fan and his paper. [761 "I know I 
put them somewhere last night," he says. Since it is pitch dark, he gropes about the room, 
bumping into the furniture and muttering, "Strange! Where on earth can they be?" Finally he 
discovers the objects. He thrusts the paper into the breast of his robe with a great rustling 
sound; then he snaps open his fan and busily fans away with it. Only now is he ready to take his 
leave. What charmless behaviour! "Hateful" is an understatement. 

Equally disagreeable is the man who, when leaving in the middle of the night, takes care to 
fasten the cord of his headdress. This is quite unnecessary; he could perfectly well put it gently 
on his head without tying the cord. And why must he spend time adjusting his cloak or hunting 
costume? Does he really think someone may see him at this time of night and criticize him for 
not being impeccably dressed? 

A good lover will behave as elegantly at dawn as at any other time. He drags himself out of bed 
with a look of dismay on his face. The lady urges him on: "Come, my friend, it's getting light. 

You don't want anyone to find you here." He gives a deep sigh, as if to say that the night has 
not been nearly long enough and that it is agony to leave. Once up, he does not instantly pull 
on his trousers. Instead he comes close to the lady and whispers what ever was left unsaid 
during the night. Even when he is dressed, he still lingers, vaguely pretending to be fastening his 

Presently he raises the lattice, and the two lovers stand together by the side door while he tells 
her how he dreads the coming day, which will keep them apart; then he slips away. The lady 
watches him go, and this moment of parting will remain among her most charming memories. 

Indeed, one's attachment to a man depends largely on the elegance of his leave-taking. When 
he jumps out of bed, scurries about the room, tightly fastens his trouser-sash, rolls up the 
sleeves of his Court cloak, over-robe, or hunting costume, stuffs his belongings into the breast 
of his robe and then briskly secures the outer sash - one really begins to hate him. 

15. The Palace of the First Ward 

The Palace of the First Ward is also known as the Palace of Today; and, when His Majesty is 
staying there, it is called Seiryo Palace. The Empress's residence is to the north and connected 
to it by galleries on the left and right. Sometimes His Majesty proceeds along these galleries to 
visit the Empress, but usually it is the Empress who visits him. In front of the Empress's building 
is a charming little garden, planted with shrubs and flowers, and surrounded by a bamboo 

On the tenth day of the Second Month, with the sun shining down from a clear, peaceful sky. 
His Majesty was playing the flute under the eaves near the western part of the gallery. He was 
attended by that excellent flautist, Takato, the Senior Assistant Governor-General. They played 
the Takasago 1771 tune in unison several times, and Takato explained various points about the 
flute to His Majesty. To describe the scene as "most splendid" would be hopelessly inadequate. 
I was sitting behind the bamboo blinds with some other women, and, as I observed everything, 

I felt that I had never in my life been unhappy. 

Next the Emperor started to play the song of Suketada. Now, this Suketada 1781 was a Secretary 
in the Bureau of Carpentry who had been appointed Chamberlain; but, since he was extremely 
uncouth, the high-ranking ladies and gentlemen at Court had nicknamed him "rough crocodile" 
and written a song about him: 

Who can stand next to this fine fellow? 

Truly is he of Owari stock! [79] 

(His mother was, in fact, the daughter of a certain Kanetoki from Owari Province.) Hearing the 
Emperor play this tune, Takato sat down next to him and said, "Would Your Majesty be pleased 
to blow a little more loudly? Suketada cannot possibly hear, and even if he did he wouldn't 

"How so?" replied the Emperor. "I am sure he would recognize the tune." For a while he 
continued to play softly, then walked down the gallery in the direction of the Empress's 
building. "He certainly cannot hear me from here," explained His Majesty. "Now I can really let 
myself go!" So saying, he blew out the tune heartily, and it was most delightful. 

16. Things That Make One's Heart Beat Faster 

Sparrows feeding their young. To pass a place where babies are playing. To sleep in a room 
where some fine incense has been burnt. To notice that one's elegant Chinese mirror has 
become a little cloudy. To see a gentleman stop his carriage before one's gate and instruct his 
attendants to announce his arrival. To wash one's hair, make one's toilet, and put on scented 
robes; even if not a soul sees it, these preparations still produce an inner pleasure. 

It is night and one is expecting a visitor. Suddenly one is startled by the sound of rain-drops, 
which the wind blows against the shutters. 

17. Things That Arouse a Fond Memory of the Past 

Dried hollyhock. [801 The objects used during the Display of Dolls. 1811 To find a piece of deep 
violet 1821 or grape-coloured material that has been pressed between the pages of a notebook. 

It is a rainy day and one is feeling bored. To pass the time, one starts looking through some old 
papers. And then one comes across the letters of a man one used to love. 

Last year's paper fan. 1831 A night with a clear moon. 1841 

18. A Palm-Leaf Carriage Should Move Slowly 

A palm-leaf carriage should move slowly, or else it loses its dignity. A wickerwork carriage, 1851 
on the other hand, should go fast. Hardly has one seen it pass the gate when it is out of sight, 
and all that remains is the attendants who run after it. At such moments I enjoy wondering who 
the passengers may be. But, if a wickerwork carriage moves slowly, one has plenty of time to 
observe it, and that becomes very dull. 

19. Oxen Should Have Very Small Foreheads 

Oxen should have very small foreheads with white hair; their underbellies, the ends of their 
legs, and the tips of their tails should also be white. 

I like horses to be chestnut, piebald, dapple-grey, or black roan, with white patches near their 
shoulders and feet; I also like horses with light chestnut coats and extremely white manes and 
tails - so white, indeed, that their hair looks like mulberry threads. 

I like a cat whose back is black and all the rest white. 

20. The Driver of an Ox-Carriage 

The driver of an ox-carriage should be a big man; his greying hair should have a slightly reddish 
tint, and his face should be ruddy. He should also look intelligent. 

Attendants and escorts should be slim. I prefer gentlemen also to be on the slender side, at 
least when young. Stout men always strike me as sleepy-looking. 

I like page-boys to be small. They should have beautiful hair that hangs loosely, lightly touching 
their necks. Their voices must be attractive and their speech respectful; for these are the marks 
of an adept page. 

21. A Preacher Ought To Be Good-Looking 

A preacher ought to be good-looking. For, if we are properly to understand his worthy 
sentiments, we must keep our eyes on him while he speaks; should we look away, we may 
forget to listen. Accordingly an ugly preacher may well be the source of sin... 

But I really must stop writing this kind of thing. If I were still young enough, I might risk the 
consequence of putting down such impieties, but at my present stage of life I should be less 

Some people, on hearing that a priest is particularly venerable and pious, rush off to the temple 
where he is preaching, determined to arrive before anyone else. They, too, are liable to bring a 
load of sin on themselves and would do better to stay away. 

In earlier times men who had retired from the post of Chamberlain 1861 did not ride at the head 
of Imperial processions; in fact, during the year of their retirement they hardly ever appeared 
outside their houses, and did not dream of showing themselves in the precincts of the Palace. 
Things seem to have changed. Nowadays they are known as "Fifth Rank Chamberlains" and 
given all sorts of official jobs. 

Even so, time often hangs heavily on their hands, especially when they recall their busy days in 
active service. Though these Fifth Rank Chamberlains keep the fact to themselves, they know 

they have a good deal of leisure. Men like this frequently repair to temples and listen to the 
popular priests, such visits eventually becoming a habit. One will find them there even on hot 
summer days, decked out in bright linen robes, with loose trousers of light violet or bluish grey 
spread about them. Sometimes they will have taboo tags 1871 attached to their black lacquered 
head dresses. Far from preferring to stay at home on such inauspicious days, they apparently 
believe that no harm can come to anyone bent on so worthy an errand. They arrive hastily, 
converse with the priest, look inside the carriages 1881 that are being lined up out side the 
temple, and take an interest in everything. 

Now a couple of gentlemen who have not met for some time run into each other in the temple, 
and are greatly surprised. They sit down together and chat away, nodding their heads, ex 
changing funny stories, and opening their fans wide to hold before their faces so as to laugh 
more freely. Toying with their elegantly decorated rosaries, they glance about, criticizing some 
defect they have noticed in one of the carriages or praising the elegance of another. They 
discuss various services that they have recently attended and compare the skill of different 
priests in performing the Eight Lessons or the Dedication of Sutras. 1891 Meanwhile, of course, 
they pay not the slightest attention to the service actually in progress. To be sure, it would not 
interest them very much; for they have heard it all so often that the priest's words could no 
longer make any impression. 

After the priest has been on his dais for some time, a carriage stops outside the temple. The 
outriders clear the way in a some what perfunctory fashion, and the passengers get out. They 
are slender young gentlemen, clad either in hunting costumes or in Court cloaks that look 
lighter than a cicada's wings, loose trousers, and unlined robes of raw silk. As they enter the 
temple, accompanied by an equal number of attendants, the worshippers, including those who 
have been there since the beginning of the service, move back to make room for them; the 
young men install themselves at the foot of a pillar near the dais. As one would expect from 
such people, they now make a great show of rubbing their rosaries and prostrating themselves 
in prayer. The priest, convinced by the sight of the newcomers that this is a grand occasion, 
launches out on an impressive sermon that he presumes will make his name in society. But no 
sooner have the young men settled down and finished touching their heads on the floor than 
they begin to think about leaving at the first opportunity. Two of them steal glances at the 
women's carriages outside, and it is easy to imagine what they are saying to each other. They 
recognize one of the women and admire her elegance; then, catching sight of a stranger, they 
discuss who she can be. I find it fascinating to see such goings-on in a temple. 

Often one hears exchanges like this: "There was a service at such-and-such a temple where 
they did the Eight Lessons." "Was Lady So-and-So present?" "Of course. How could she possibly 
have missed it?" It is really too bad that they should always answer like this. 

One would imagine that it would be all right for ladies of quality to visit temples and take a 
discreet look at the preacher's dais. After all, even women of humble station may listen 
devoutly to religious sermons. Yet in the old days ladies almost never walked to temples to 

attend sermons; on the rare visits that they did undertake they had to wear elegant travelling 
costume, [901 as when making proper pilgrimages to shrines and temples. If people of those 
times had lived long enough to see the recent conduct in the temples, how they would have 
criticized the women of our day! 

22. When I Visited Bodai Temple 

When I visited Bodai Temple to hear the Eight Lessons for Confirmation, [91] I received this 
message from a friend: "Please come back soon. Things are very dreary here without you." I 
wrote my reply on a lotus petal: 

Though you bid me come. 

How can I leave these dew-wet lotus leaves 

And return to a world so full of grief ? [92] 

I had been truly moved by the ceremony and felt that I could remain forever in the temple. So 
must Hsiang Chung have felt when he forgot about the people who were impatiently awaiting 
him at home. [931 

23. Smaller Shirakawa. 

Smaller Shirakawa is the residence of His Excellency, the Major Captain of the Smaller Palace of 
the First Ward. When the Eight Lessons for Confirmation were performed there under the 
auspices of the High Court Nobles, it was a very magnificent thing, and everyone went to hear 
the readings. We had been warned that late-comers would be unable to bring their carriages 
near the hall, so we all hurried to get up with the dew. [94] And what a crowd there was! The 
carriages in front of the building were so crowded together that each was supported on the 
shafts of the one behind, and even people in the third row were close enough to hear the 
service. It was about the middle of the Sixth Month; the heat was overpowering. The only way 
to feel a little cooler was to gaze at the lotuses growing in the pond. 

With the exception of the Ministers of the Left and the Right, [95] all the High Court Nobles were 
present. They wore laced trousers and Court cloaks lined with violet, through which one could 
make out the light yellow of their linen robes. Those gentlemen who had lately reached adult 
age were attired in white trouser-skirts and laced trousers of bluish grey, which gave an 
impression of coolness. Sukemasa, the Imperial Adviser, was dressed in a rather youthful 
fashion that seemed informal for so solemn an occasion. In every way it was a fascinating 

The bamboo blinds in the main room had been rolled up high. At the threshold of the veranda 
the High Court Nobles were seated in long rows facing inside, while on the veranda itself 
several senior courtiers and young noblemen, beautifully attired in hunting costumes and Court 
cloaks, wandered up and down, chatting agreeably. Sanekata, the Captain of the Guards, and 
Nagaakira, the Gentleman-in-Waiting, having both been brought up in this house, knew their 
way about better than the others and walked about freely. There were also two young 
noblemen, still only children, whom I greatly enjoyed watching. 

Towards noon the Middle Captain of the Third Rank (as the Chancellor, Michitaka, was then 
styled) arrived at Smaller Shirakawa. Over a thin silk robe of dark orange he wore a dazzling 
white one of glossy silk; his Court cloak was lined with violet, and his laced trousers were the 
same colour, while his trouser skirt was of deep red material. One might imagine that his 
costume would have settled too warm next to the light, cool attire of the other gentlemen; in 
fact he seemed perfectly clad. His fan, with its slender, lacquered frame, was slightly different 
from the others, but it was covered with red paper of the same tint. As I looked at all the men 
gathered there with their fans, I had the impression that I was seeing a field of pinks in full 

Since the priest had not yet mounted his dais, the attendants placed before the guests small 
tables on which to serve refreshments. 

Yoshichika, the Middle Counsellor, looked better than ever; his appearance was infinitely 
charming... (It occurs to me that perhaps I should not refer to such distinguished gentlemen by 
name; yet otherwise how shall I be sure of their identity in later years?) The summer robes of 
most of the men were dyed in magnificent shades, and together they shone with such dazzling 
lustre that it was hard to single out any particular colour as being the most distinctive. 
Yoshichika's linen robe was so discreet that one might have thought it was an ordinary Court 
cloak. He was constantly glancing towards the carriages and sending messages to the ladies. 
Everyone found this delightful. 

Before long there was no room left for further carriages; the new arrivals had to be pulled up 
beside the pond. Catching sight of one of these, Yoshichika sent word to Sanekata: "Please find 
me someone suitable for delivering a message." Having chosen one of the household 
attendants, Sanekata brought him to Yoshichika, who gave his instructions. People standing 
near by were speculating about the contents of this message, but I was too far away to hear. 

Presently the messenger, looking so self-important that people could not help laughing, 
swaggered over to the carriage that Yoshichika had indicated and spoke to the lady inside. "No 
doubt she's busy with a poem," someone joked, as the messenger stood there waiting. "Come, 
Captain Sanekata, why don't you frame a reply?" It was amusing to see how everyone, from the 
most dignified High Court Noble down to the ordinary people standing out in the open, was 
watching the carriage with mounting impatience. At last the man began walking off—had she 
finally given him a message? - only to be summoned back by a wave of the lady's fan. It 

occurred to me that she may have made a mistake in the wording of her poem. But after taking 
such a long time? This was certainly not the proper way to do things. 

"Well, well, what was her answer? What did she say? " people asked when the messenger 
finally returned; but he would divulge nothing. On being summoned by Yoshichika, the 
messenger started to report in a pompous, measured style. "Be quick about it!" Michitaka 
interposed. "Say what you have to say without straining for effect! And mind you don't make 
any mistakes!" "Well, Sir," I heard the messenger say, "it really does not matter how I report 
such a reply. 

The Major Counsellor, Fujiwara no Tamemitsu, craned his neck forward. He seemed the most 
curious of all. 

After the messenger had reported, Michitaka remarked, "It seems to be the case of bending a 
very straight tree and breaking it in the process. [961 Tamemitsu burst out laughing, and 
everyone joined in without quite knowing why. I wondered whether the lady could hear them. 

"But look here," said Yoshichika to the messenger. "What did she say before she called you 
back? Tell us her exact words without trying to improve on them! 

"Well, Sir," said the messenger, she was a long time without replying at all. When I said that I 
had better be going, she called me back." 

And whose carriage is it - who is she?" Yoshichika asked, just as the priest mounted his dais and 
everyone fell silent. While the entire congregation was attending to the service, the lady's 
carriage disappeared as if it had vanished from the face of the earth. I remember that its inner 
blinds and other fittings looked brand new. The lady had worn a set of dark purple robes 1971 
over a violet garb of figured material; above it all was a thin cloak of dark red; her formal skirt 
with its printed pattern had been allowed to spread so that its train hung over the back of the 
carriage. Who could she be, I wondered, and was her reaction to Yoshichika's message as 
improper as it seemed? I have heard people suggest that no reply at all is better than a bad 
one, with which I quite agree. 

Seihan, the priest who officiated at the morning service, looked resplendent on his dais; 
nothing could have been more impressive. But we did not want to stay. For one thing, the heat 
was overpowering. Besides, we had set out in the morning with the intention of hearing only 
part of the service, and had various things to finish at home that could not be put off. However, 
since our carriage was in the forefront, with row after row of other carriages piled up behind us 
like waves, it was impossible to retreat. We sent messages to the occupants of the other 
carriages saying that we should like to leave as soon as the morning service was over. No doubt 
delighted at the possibility of coming a little closer to the dais, they immediately began to make 
an opening for us. 

Seeing us leave so early, many of the onlookers, including some elderly High Court Nobles, 
made quite audible jokes at our expense; but we paid no attention and refused to reply. As we 

were squeezing our way out, Yoshichika laughingly called to me, "Ah, you do well to depart!" [981 
Overcome by the heat, I paid no attention to this quip, but later I sent a man with the message, 
"Your Excellency, too, will surely be among the five thousand." And so we left the crowd and 
returned home. 

I remember a certain carriage that remained outside Smaller Shirakawa from the very 
beginning of the services until the last day. Not once did anyone go up to speak to the person 
who occupied it. I was much impressed by this mysterious vehicle that stood there as immobile 
as a carriage in a picture. "Who can it be in that splendid carriage?" I said. "How can one find 
out?" Overhearing me, Tamemitsu remarked, "It does not look very splendid to me. Quite the 
contrary -1 am sure the occupant is an odious creature." I was amused by his comment. 

After the twentieth of the month the Middle Counsellor be came a priest, which caused me 
much regret. That the cherry blossoms should scatter in the wind is the way of this world; but 
the Counsellor had certainly not reached the age of "waiting for the dew to fall". 

24. It Is So Stiflingly Hot 

It is so stiflingly hot in the Seventh Month that even at night one keeps all the doors and lattices 
open. At such times it is delightful to wake up when the moon is shining and to look outside. I 
enjoy it even when there is no moon. But to wake up at dawn and see a pale sliver of a moon in 
the sky - well, I need hardly say how perfect that is. 

I like to see a bright new straw mat that has just been spread out on a well-polished floor. [991 
The best place for one's three-foot curtain of state is in the front of the room near the veranda. 
It is pointless to put it in the rear of the room, as it is most unlikely that anyone will peer in 
from that direction. [1001 

It is dawn and a woman is lying in bed after her lover has taken his leave. She is covered up to 
her head with a light mauve robe that has a lining of dark violet; the colour of both the outside 
and the lining is fresh and glossy. 11011 The woman, who appears to be asleep, wears an unlined 
orange robe and a dark crimson skirt of stiff silk whose cords hang loosely by her side, as if they 
have been left untied. Her thick tresses tumble over each other in cascades, and one can 
imagine how long her hair must be when it falls freely down her back. 11021 

Nearby another woman's lover is making his way home in the misty dawn. He is wearing loose 
violet trousers, an orange hunting costume, so lightly coloured that one can hardly tell whether 
it has been dyed or not, a white robe of stiff silk, and a scarlet robe of glossy, beaten silk. His 
clothes, which are damp from the mist, hang loosely about him. From the dishevelment of his 
side locks one can tell how negligently he must have tucked his hair into his black lacquered 
head-dress when he got up. He wants to return and write his next-morning letter 11031 before the 
dew on the morning glories has had time to vanish; but the path seems endless, and to divert 
himself he hums "The sprouts in the flax fields". 11041 

As he walks along, he passes a house with an open lattice. He is on his way to report for official 
duty, but cannot help stopping to lift up the blind and peep into the room. [1051 It amuses him to 
think that a man has probably been spending the night here and has only recently got up to 
leave, just as happened to himself. Perhaps that man too had felt the charm of the dew. [1061 

Looking round the room, he notices near the woman's pillow an open fan with a magnolia 
frame and purple paper; and at the foot of her curtain of state he sees some narrow strips of 
Michinoku paper and also some other paper of a faded colour, either orange-red or maple. 

The woman senses that someone is watching her and, looking up from under her bedclothes, 
sees a gentleman leaning against the wall by the threshold, a smile on his face. She can tell at 
once that he is the sort of man with whom she need feel no reserve. All the same, she does not 
want to enter into any familiar relations with him, and she is annoyed that he should have seen 
her asleep. [1071 

"Well, well. Madam," says the man, leaning forward so that the upper part of his body comes 
behind her curtains, "what a long nap you're having after your morning adieu I You really are a 

"You call me that. Sir," she replied, "only because you're annoyed at having had to get up 
before the dew had time to settle." 

Their conversation may be commonplace, yet I find there is something delightful about the 

Now the gentleman leans further forward and, using his own fan, tries to get hold of the fan by 
the woman's pillow. Fearing his closeness, she moves further back into her curtain enclosure, 
her heart pounding. The gentleman picks up the magnolia fan and, while examining it, says in a 
slightly bitter tone, "How standoffish you are!" 

But now it is growing light; there is a sound of people's voices, and it looks as if the sun will 
soon be up. Only a short while ago this same man was hurrying home to write his next morning 
letter before the mists had time to clear. Alas, how easily his intentions have been forgotten! 

While all this is afoot, the woman's original lover has been busy with his own next-morning 
letter, and now, quite un expectedly, the messenger arrives at her house. The letter is attached 
to a spray of bush-clover, still damp with dew, and the paper gives off a delicious aroma of 
incense. Because of the new visitor, however, the woman's servants cannot deliver it to her. 

Finally it becomes unseemly for the gentleman to stay any longer. As he goes, he is amused to 
think that a similar scene may be taking place in the house he left earlier that morning. 

25. Flowering Trees 

Plum blossoms, whether light or dark, and in particular red plum blossoms, fill me with 
happiness. I also like a slender branch of cherry blossoms, with large petals and dark red leaves. 
How graceful is the wisteria as its branches bend down covered with whorls of delicately 
coloured petals! 

The u no hana [108] is a more modest plant and deserves no special praise; yet it flowers at a 
pleasant time of the year, and I enjoy thinking that a hototogisu may be hiding in its shade. 
When passing through the plain of Murasaki 11091 on one's way back from the Festival, it is lovely 
to see the white of the u no hana blossoms in the shaggy hedges near the cottages. They look 
like thin, white robes worn over a costume of yellowish green. 

At the end of the Fourth Month and the beginning of the Fifth the orange trees have dark green 
leaves and are covered with brilliant white flowers. In the early morning, when they have been 
sprinkled with rain, one feels that nothing in the world can match their charm; and, if one is 
fortunate enough to see the fruit itself, standing out like golden spheres among the flowers, it 
looks as beautiful as that most magnificent of sights, the cherry blossoms damp with morning 
dew. But I need say no more; so much has been written about the beauty of the orange trees in 
the many poems that link them with the hototogisu . [110] 

The blossom of the pear tree is the most prosaic, vulgar thing in the world. The less one sees 
this particular blossom the better, and it should not be attached to even the most trivial 
message. [ml The pear blossom can be compared to the face of a plain woman; for its colouring 
lacks all charm. Or so, at least, I used to think. Knowing that the Chinese admire the pear 
blossom greatly and praise it in their poems, I wondered what they could see in it and made a 
point of examining the flower. Then I was surprised to find that its petals were prettily edged 
with a pink tinge, so faint that I could not be sure whether it was there or not. It was to the pear 
blossoms, I recalled, that the poet likened the face of Yang Kuei-fei when she came forth in 
tears to meet the Emperor's messenger - "a spray of pear blossom in spring, covered with drops 
of rain" [1121 —and I realized that this was no idle figure of speech and that it really is a 
magnificent flower. 

The purple blossoms of the paulownia are also delightful. I confess that I do not like the 
appearance of its wide leaves when they open up... But I cannot speak of the paulownia as I do 
of the other trees; for this is where that grandiose and famous bird of China makes its nest, and 
the idea fills me with awe. [113] Besides, it is this tree that provides the wood for the zithers from 
which come so many beautiful sounds. How can I have used such a commonplace word as 
"delightful"? The paulownia is not delightful; it is magnificent. 

The melia tree is ugly, but I find its flowers very pretty indeed. One always sees them on the 
fifth day of the Fifth Month, and there is something charming about these dried-up, oddly 
shaped little flowers. [1141 

26. Festivals 

There is nothing to equal the Festival of the Fifth Month, 11151 when the scents of the iris and the 
sage-brush mingle so charmingly. From the Ninefold Enclosure of the Imperial Palace down to 
the cottages of the common folk, there is not a place where people are not busy covering their 
roofs with leaves of iris and branches of sage-brush. Everyone wants his own house to be 
decorated most luxuriantly. All this is a splendid thing which never occurs on any other 

On the actual day of the festival the sky is usually cloudy. HerbaI balls, decorated with braided 
strings of many colours, have been brought to the Empress's palace by the Bureau of the 
Wardrobe, and they are now attached to the pillars on both sides of the main hall in which 
stands Her Majesty's curtain-dais. [116] They replace the chrysanthemums that have been 
hanging there ever since the ninth day of the Ninth Month, wrapped in their plain cases of raw 
silk. The herbal balls are supposed to remain on the pillars until the next Chrysanthemum 
Festival; but when ever people need a string, they tear a piece off the herbal balls, so that 
before long nothing is left. 

During the course of this festive day gifts are exchanged, and young people decorate their hair 
with iris; they attach taboo tags to their clothes, and adorn their coats and Chinese jackets with 
long iris roots or sprigs of azalea, orange, and other attractive plants, which they secure to their 
sleeves with plaited cords dyed in uneven shadings. Though there is nothing new about any of 
this, it is very charming. After all, do people tire of the cherry trees because they blossom every 

The little girls who trip along the streets are also decorated with iris, but the flowers they wear 
are smaller than those worn by the grown-ups. The children are proud of themselves and keep 
looking at the flowers on their sleeves, comparing them with those of their companions. This is 
all delightful, as are the little pages who play with the girls and snatch away their iris, making 
them burst into tears. 

I also like to see melia flowers wrapped in purple paper; thinly rolled iris leaves done up in 
green paper and attached to people's clothing; and iris roots tied to white paper. Some very 
elegant men enclose long iris roots in their letters, and it is a pleasure to watch the women who 
have received the contents discussing them with their companions and showing each other 
their replies. People who have chosen this day to send letters to a well-born girl or to a high- 
ranking gentleman at Court exude a particular grace. Indeed the Iris Festival is nothing but a 
delight until the hototogisu brings the day to an end by announcing its name. 

27. Trees 

The maple and the five-needled pine, the willow and the orange tree. The Chinese hawthorn 
has a rather vulgar name (Side Tree); but, when all the other trees have lost their blossoms, its 
dark red leaves shine out impressively from the green surroundings. 11171 

I shall say absolutely nothing about the spindle tree. 

I realize that it is not a specific tree, but I must mention the name "parasite tree" since I find it 
so moving. [1181 

I particularly enjoy the sakaki on occasions like the Imperial sacred dances at the special 
festivals. 11191 Among all the trees in the world this is the one that people have always regarded 
as the tree of the Divine Presence - a very pleasant thought. 

The camphor tends to grow by itself, avoiding clusters of other trees. There is something rather 
frightening about its tangled branches, and this estranges one from it; yet it is because the tree 
is divided into a thousand branches that it has been evoked to describe people in love. [1201 (By 
the way, I wonder who was the first person to know how many branches it had.) 

One does not see the hinoki cypress very often; but the palace of "three ridges, four ridges" 
was built with the wood of this tree. [ml In the Fifth Month it gives a pleasant imitation of the 
sound of rain. 

The maple is an insignificant tree in itself; but its red-tinged leaves, all spread in the same 
direction, look very pretty on the branches, and there is something charming about its flowers, 
which seem as fragile as dried-up insects. 

It is rare to come across the large-leaved cypress, 11221 and not much is said about it; but I 
understand that pilgrims returning from Mitake often bring back branches of the tree as 
souvenirs. These branches are said to be rough and disagreeable to touch. Yet the tree has 
been given a name meaning "tomorrow he will become a cypress". What can be the point of 
such a prediction, and for whom was it made? I should really like to know. 

The privet is also an uncommon tree. Its best feature is its tiny, delicate leaves. 

The melia and the wild pear tree. 

The pasania oak. It is strange that just this tree among all the evergreens should be mentioned 
as the one whose leaves do not change. 

Of the trees that grow far away in the hills the so-called white oak is the least familiar; in fact 
about the only time one sees even its leaves is when they are being used to dye the robes worn 
by gentlemen of the second or third ranks. Though there is nothing very splendid or unusual 
about the tree, one always has the illusion that it is covered with snow, and it moves me greatly 
to recall the poem that Hitomaro wrote about the journey of the Storm God to Izumo. 11231 

Whether it be a plant or a tree, a bird or an insect, I can never be indifferent to anything that is 
connected with some special occasion or that has once moved or delighted me. 

The yuzuriha [124] has an abundance of pretty leaves, all green and glossy; but its stem is quite 
different from what one would expect, for it is red and glittering. There is something a little 
vulgar about its colour, yet I really like the tree. No one pays the slightest attention to it during 
most of the year, but on the last day of the Twelfth Month it comes into its own. I understand 
that the food offered to the dead on that day is spread out on yuzuriha leaves, and this I find 
very touching. It appears that the same leaves are used to serve tooth-hardening food, which is 
meant to prolong life. How can this be? It is of this tree also that the poet has written, "When 
the leaves turn red". Indeed the yuzuriha is full of promises. 

The common oak is a magnificent tree. To think that the God of Leaves lives there! [1251 It is also 
fascinating that Captains and Lieutenants of the Middle Palace Guards should be named after 
this tree. 

The hemp palm is an ill-shaped tree; but it is in the Chinese style [126] and does not grow outside 
the houses of common people. 

28. Birds 

The parrot does not belong to our country, but I like it very much. I am told that it imitates 
whatever people say. [1271 

The hototogisu, the water-rail, and the snipe; the starling, the siskin, and the fly-catcher. They 
say when the copper pheasant cries for its mate it can be consoled if one puts a mirror before it 
— a very moving thought. [128] What misery these birds must suffer if they are separated from 
each other by a gorge or a ravine! 

If I were to write down all my thoughts about the crane, I should become tiresome. How 
magnificent when this bird lets out its cry, which reaches up to the very heavens! 

The red-headed sparrow, the male grosbeak, the kinglet. 

The heron is an unpleasant-looking bird with a most disagreeable expression in its eyes. Yet, 
though it has nothing to recommend it, I am pleased to think that it does not nest alone in 
Yurugi Wood. [1291 

The box bird. [1301 

Among water fowl it is the mandarin duck that affects me most. How charming to think that the 
drake and his mate take turns in brushing the frost from each other's wings! [1311 

The gull. The river plover - alas, that he should have lost his mate! [132] 

The distant cry of wild geese is a most moving sound. 

It is charming to think of the wild duck sweeping the frost from its wings. [133] 

The poets have extolled the uguisu [13A] as a splendid bird, and so indeed it is; for both its voice 
and its appearance are most elegant and beautiful. Alas that it does not sing in the Ninefold 
Enclosure of the Palace! When I first heard people say this, I thought they must be mistaken; 
but now I have served for ten years in the Palace, and, though I have often listened for it, I have 
never yet heard its song. The bamboos in the Palace gardens and the plum trees with red 
blossoms should certainly attract these birds. [1351 Yet not one of them comes here, whereas 
outside the Palace, in the paltry plum tree of some commoner's house, one hears the uguisu 
warbling joyfully. 

At night the uguisu is silent. Obviously this bird likes its sleep, and there is nothing we can do 
about that. 

In the summer and autumn the uguisu's voice grows hoarse. Now the common people change 
its name to "insect eater" or something of the kind, which strikes me as both unpleasant and 
unseemly. I should not mind if it were an ordinary bird like the sparrow; but this is the 
magnificent uguisu, whose song in the spring has moved writers to praise that season in both 
poetry and prose. How splendid it would be if the uguisu would sing only in the spring. [1361 Yet 
it is wrong to despise this bird just because its voice deteriorates in the later seasons. After all, 
should we look down on men or women because they have been ravaged by age and are 
scorned by the world? There are certain birds, like the kite and the crow, that people disregard 
entirely and would never bother to criticize; it is precisely because the uguisu is usually held in 
such high regard that people find fault with it when they can. 

I remember that on a certain occasion, when we had decided to watch the return of the High 
Priestess's procession from the Kamo Festival and had ordered the attendants to stop our 
carriages in front of Urin and Chisoku Temples, a hototogisu began to sing, not wanting to be 
hidden on this festive day. An uguisu sang in unison, perfectly imitating his voice. I was 
surprised by what lovely music these birds can make when they sing together high in the trees. 

Having written so many good things about the uguisu, how can I properly praise the 
hototogisu ? What a joy it is in the Fifth Month to hear its voice ring out triumphantly as if to 
say, "My season has come!" The poets describe the hototogisu as lurking in the u no hana and 
the orange tree; and there is something so alluring about the picture of this bird half hidden by 
the blossoms that one is almost overcome with envy. During the short summer nights in the 
rainy season one sometimes wakes up and lies in bed hoping to be the first person to hear the 
hototogisu. Suddenly towards dawn its song breaks the silence; one is charmed, indeed one is 
quite intoxicated. But alas, when the Sixth Month comes, the hototogisu is silent. I really need 
say no more about my feelings for this bird. And I do not love the hototogisu alone; any thing 
that cries out at night delights me - except babies. 

29. Elegant Things 

A white coat worn over a violet waistcoat. Duck eggs. 

Shaved ice mixed with liana syrup and put in a new silver bowl. [1371 

A rosary of rock crystal. Wisteria blossoms. Plum blossoms covered with snow. A pretty child 
eating strawberries. 


The bell insect and the pine cricket; the grasshopper and the common cricket; the butterfly and 
the shrimp insect; the mayfly and the firefly. 

I feel very sorry for the basket worm. He was begotten by a demon, and his mother, fearing 
that he would grow up with his father's frightening nature, abandoned the unsuspecting child, 
having first wrapped him in a dirty piece of clothing. "Wait for me," she said as she left. "I shall 
return to you as soon as the autumn winds blow." So, when autumn comes and the wind starts 
blowing, the wretched child hears it and desperately cries, "Milk! Milk!" [138] 

The clear-toned cicada. 

The snap-beetle also impresses me. They say that the reason it bows while crawling along the 
ground is that the faith of Buddha has sprung up in its insect heart. Sometimes one suddenly 
hears the snap-beetle tapping away in a dark place, and this is rather pleasant. 

The fly should have been included in my list of hateful things; [1391 for such an odious creature 
does not belong with ordinary insects. It settles on everything, and even alights on one's face 
with its clammy feet. I am sorry that anyone should have been named after it. [1401 

The tiger moth is very pretty and delightful. When one sits close to a lamp reading a story, a 
tiger moth will often flutter prettily in front of one's book. 

The ant is an ugly insect; but it is light on its feet and I enjoy watching as it skims quickly over 
the surface of the water. 

31. In the Seventh Month 

In the Seventh Month, when there are fierce winds and heavy showers, it is quite cool and one 
does not bother to carry a fan. On such days I find it is pleasant to take a nap, having covered 
myself with some clothing that gives off a faint smell of perspiration. [1411 

32. Unsuitable Things 

A woman with ugly hair wearing a robe of white damask. Hollyhock worn in frizzled hair. Ugly 
handwriting on red paper. 

Snow on the houses of common people. This is especially regrettable when the moonlight 
shines down on it. 11421 

A plain wagon 11431 on a moonlit night; or a light auburn ox harnessed to such a wagon. 

A woman who, though well past her youth, is pregnant and walks along panting. It is unpleasant 
to see a woman of a certain age with a young husband; and it is most unsuitable when she 
becomes jealous of him because he has gone to visit someone else. 

An elderly man who has overslept and who wakes up with a start; or a greybeard munching 
some acorns that he has plucked. An old woman who eats a plum and, finding it sour, puckers 
her toothless mouth. 

A woman of the lower classes dressed in a scarlet trouser-skirt. The sight is all too common 
these days. 

A handsome man with an ugly wife. 

An elderly man with a black beard and a disagreeable expression playing with a little child who 
has just learnt to talk. 

It is most unseemly for an Assistant Captain of the Quiver Bearers 11441 to make his night patrol in 
a hunting costume. And, if he wanders outside the woman's quarters, ostentatiously clad in his 
terrifying red cloak, people will be sure to look down on him. They disapprove of his behaviour 
and taunt him with remarks like "Are you searching for someone suspicious?" 

A Lieutenant in the Imperial Police who serves as a Chamberlain of the Sixth Rank, and 
therefore has access to the Senior Courtiers' Chamber, is regarded as being splendid beyond 
words. 11451 Country folk and people of the lower orders believe that he cannot be a creature of 
this world: in his presence they tremble with fear and dare not meet his eyes. It is very 
unsuitable that such a man should slink along the narrow corridors of some Palace building in 
order to steal into a woman's room. 11461 

A man's trouser-skirt hanging over a curtain of state that has been discreetly perfumed with 
incense. 11471 The material of the trouser-skirt is disagreeably heavy; and, even though it may be 
shining whitely in the lamp-light, there is something unsuitable about it. 

An officer who thinks he is very fashionable in his open over robe and who folds it thinly as a 
rat's tail before hanging it over the curtain of state—well, such a man is simply unfit for night 
patrol. Officers on duty should abstain from visiting the women's quarters; the same applies to 
Chamberlains of the Fifth Rank. 

33. I Was Standing in a Corridor 

I was standing in a corridor of the Palace with several other women when we noticed some 
servants passing. We summoned them to us (in what I admit was a rather unladylike fashion) 
and they turned out to be a group of handsome male attendants and pages carrying attractively 
wrapped bundles and bags. Trouser cords protruded from some, and I noticed that others 
contained bows, arrows, shields, halberds, and swords. 11481 "Whom do these things belong to?" 
we asked each of the servants in turn. Some of them knelt down respectfully and replied, "They 
belong to Lord So-and-so." Then they stood up and continued on their way, which was all very 
nice. But others gave themselves airs, or else were embarrassed and said, "I don't know", or 
even went off without replying at all, which I found hateful indeed. 

34. Gentlemen Should Always Have Escorts 

Gentlemen should always have escorts. Even young noblemen, however handsome and 
charming, strike me as dull creatures if they are unescorted. 

I have always regarded the position of Controller 11491 as a fine and honourable one; but it is a 
shame that the train of his under robe should be so short and that he is not provided with an 

35. Once I Saw Yukinari 

Once I saw Yukinari, the Controller First Secretary, engaged in a long conversation with a lady 
near the garden fence by the western side of the Empress's Office. 11501 When at last they had 
finished, I came out and asked, "Who was she?" "Ben no Naishi," 11511 he replied. "And what on 
earth did you find to discuss with her for such a long time? If the Major Controller had seen 
you, she would have left you quickly enough." "And who can have told you about that 
business?" asked Yukinari, laughing. 11521 As a matter of fact, that is precisely what I was 
discussing with her. I was trying to persuade her not to leave me even if the Major Controller 
did see us. 

Yukinari is a most delightful man. To be sure, he does not make any particular effort to display 
his good points and simply lets people take him as he appears, so that in general he is less 
appreciated than he might be. But I, who have seen the deeper side of his nature, know what 
an unusual person he really is. I said this one day to the Empress, who was well aware of it 
herself. In the course of our conversations he often says, "A woman yields to one who has 
taken pleasure in her; a knight dies for one who has shown him friendship." 11531 We used to say 
that our feelings for each other were like the willows on Totomi Beach. 11541 

Yet the young women at Court heartily detest Yukinari and openly repeat the most 
disagreeable things about him. "What an ugly man he is!" they say. "Why can't he recite sutras 
and poems like other people? He really is most unpleasant." Yukinari, for his part, never speaks 
to any of them. 

"I could love a woman," he said one day, "even if her eyes were turned up, [1551 her eyebrows 
spread all over her forehead, and her nose crooked. But she must have a prettily shaped mouth 
and a good chin and neck, and I couldn't stand an unattractive voice. Of course I would prefer 
her not to have any bad feature. There's really something sad about a woman with an ugly 
face." As a result, all the Court ladies with pointed chins or other un attractive features have 
become Yukinari's bitter enemies, and some of them have even spoken badly of him to the 

I was the first person he employed to take messages to the Empress, and he always called on 
me when he wanted to communicate with her. If I was in my room, he would send for me to 
the main part of the Palace, or else he would come directly into the women's quarters to give 
me his message. Even if I was at home, he would write to me or come himself, saying, "In case 
you are not returning to Court at once, would you please send someone to Her Majesty 
informing her that I have such-and such a message." "Surely you could tell a messenger yourself 
directly," I said; but he would have none of it. 

On one such occasion I suggested to Yukinari that one should "take things as they are" [1561 and 
not always stick to the same habits. "But such is my nature," he replied, "and that is something 
one cannot change." 

"Well then," I said in a surprised tone, "what is the meaning of "Do not be afraid"?" [1571 

Yukinari laughed and said, "There has no doubt been a lot of talk lately about our being so 
friendly. But what of it? Even if we were as intimate as people think, that would be nothing to 
be ashamed of. Really you could let me see your face." [1581 

"Oh no," I replied, "I cannot possibly do that. I am extremely ugly, and you said you could never 
love an ugly woman." 

"Are you really?" he said. "In that case you had better not let me see you." 

Often thereafter, when it would have been easy for Yukinari to look at me in the normal course 
of things, he covered his face with a fan or turned aside. In fact he never once saw me. To think 
that he took what I said about my ugliness quite seriously! 

Towards the end of the Third Month it becomes too warm for winter cloaks, and often 
Chamberlains who are on night watch in the Senior Courtiers' Chamber wear only the over¬ 
robes of their Court costumes, leaving off their trouser-skirts and trains. Early one morning in 
that month, when Lady Shikibu and I had been sleeping in the outer part of a room in the 
Empress's Office, the sliding door was pushed open and the Emperor and Empress entered. We 

were thrown into utter confusion and did not know what to do with ourselves, which greatly 
amused Their Majesties. Hastily we threw on our Chinese jackets, tucking our hair inside, and 
then we heaped the bed-clothes and everything else in a great pile. Their Majesties walked 
across the room and, standing behind this pile, watched the men going between the Palace and 
the guard-house. Several courtiers approached our room and spoke to us, without suspecting 
who was inside the room. "Do not let them see we are here," His Majesty said with a chuckle. 

Before long Their Majesties left. "Come along, both of you," said the Empress. I replied that we 
would come as soon as we had made up our faces, and we stayed where we were. 

Lady Shikibu and I were still discussing how splendid Their Majesties had looked when, through 
a small opening in the blinds (where the frame of our curtain of state was pressed against the 
sliding door in the back of the room), we noticed the dark silhouette 11591 of a man. At first we 
thought that it must be Noritaka 11601 and continued to talk without paying any particular 
attention. Presently a beaming face appeared through the opening in the blinds. We still took it 
to be Noritaka, but after a quick look we were amused to find that we were mistaken. Laughing 
heartily, we rearranged our curtain of state so that we were properly hidden. Too late, though. 
The man turned out to be none other than Yukinari; and he had seen me full-face. After all my 
past efforts this was extremely vexing. Lady Shikibu, on the other hand, had been looking safely 
in the other direction. 

"Well," said Yukinari, stepping forward, "now I have really managed to see you completely." 

"We thought it was Noritaka," I explained, "and so we didn't bother to hide properly. But why, 
may I ask, did you examine me so carefully when in the past you said that you would never look 
at me?" 

"I have been told," said he, "that a woman's face is particularly attractive when she rises in the 
morning. So I came here hoping for a chance to peep into one of the ladies' rooms and see 
some thing interesting. I was already watching you when Their Majesties were here, but you 
suspected nothing." 

Then, as I recall, he walked straight into the room. 

36. The Roll-Call of the Senior Courtiers 

The roll-call [161] of the senior courtiers is a delightful event, and I also enjoy it when the 
gentlemen in attendance on the Emperor have their names called. They tumble out of the 
buildings with a noisy clatter of footsteps. From the eastern part of Her Majesty's wing of Seiryo 
Palace I and the Empress's other ladies-in-waiting can follow everything if we listen carefully. 
How exciting when one hears some close friend answering with his name! It is exciting, too, to 
hear the voice of a man who is unfamiliar even though one knows he is on duty in the Palace. 

The women freely discuss the different styles in which the men have responded, and this is very 

As soon as the roll-call is finished, one hears the loud footsteps of the Imperial Guards of the 
Emperor's Private Office, who come out while twanging their bow-strings. Then the Chamber 
lain on duty proceeds to the balustrade at the north-east corner of the building, his shoes 
reverberating noisily on the wooden boards, and adopts the posture that I believe is called 
"high kneeling". Facing the Emperor's Palace, he asks the officer who stands behind him, "Is so- 
and-so present? And so-and-so?" - all most impressive. Sometimes the answers are given in a 
soft voice, sometimes loudly; and sometimes the muster is cancelled, if there are insufficient 
men present. The Officer of the Guards announces this to the Chamberlain, who asks why the 
men are absent; when the necessary information has been given, he returns to the Palace to 
make his report to the Emperor. 

Things do not go so smoothly when the Chamberlain on duty is Masahiro. 11621 Ever since some 
young noblemen advised him that he was being too lax about the report of the Officer of the 
Guards, he gets quite incensed on hearing of any absences among the men; he rebukes them 
severely, telling them that they must improve their behaviour. As a result Masahiro has become 
the laughing-stock, not only of the gentlemen at Court, but even of the common guardsmen. 

On one occasion Masahiro actually left his shoes on the serving-board in the Emperor's Dining 
Room. This caused great indignation, and it was said that whoever was responsible should be 
forced to do purgation. Some women in the Office of Grounds and a few others knew the name 
of the culprit and could not help feeling sorry for him. "Whose shoes can these be?" they said. 
"There's really no telling." In the midst of all this excitement Masahiro himself came to fetch 
the shoes. "Oh dear," he said, "those dirty things 11631 belong to me." 

37. It Is Hateful When a Well-Bred Young Man 

It is hateful when a well-bred young man who is visiting a woman of lower rank calls out her 
name in such a way as to make everyone realize that he is on familiar terms with her. However 
well he may know her name, he should slur it slightly as though he had forgotten it. On the 
other hand, this would be wrong when a gentleman comes at night to visit a lady-in-waiting. In 
such a situation he should bring along a man who can call out the lady's name for him - a 
servant from the Office of Grounds if she is in the Imperial Palace, or else someone from the 
Attendants' Hall; for his voice will be recognized if he calls her name himself. But, when he is 
visiting a mere under-servant or girl attendant, such a precaution is unnecessary. 

38. Small Children and Babies 

Small children and babies ought to be plump. So ought provincial governors and others who 
have gone ahead in the world; for, if they are lean and desiccated, one suspects them of being 

39. Nothing Can Be Worse 

Nothing can be worse than allowing the driver of one's ox carriage to be poorly dressed. It does 
not matter too much if the other attendants are shabby, since they can remain at the rear of 
the carriage; but the drivers are bound to be noticed and, if they are badly turned out, it makes 
a painful impression. 

The servants who follow one's carriage must have at least a few good points. Some people 
choose slender young men who look as if they were really made to be after-runners, but then 
let them wear threadbare hunting costumes and trouser-skirts that are dark at the hems and 
actually seem to be of shaded material. [1641 This is a great mistake; for, as they amble along 
beside the carriage, these badly dressed young men do not seem to be part of their master's 
equipage at all. 

The fact is that the people in one's employ should always be decently dressed. To be sure, 
servants often tear their clothes; but, so long as they have been wearing them for some time, 
this is no great loss and one can let the matter pass. 

Gentlemen who have had official servants allotted to their households 11651 must certainly not 
allow them to go about looking slovenly. 

When a messenger or a visitor arrives, it is very pleasant, both for the master and for the 
members of his household, to have a collection of good-looking pages in attendance. 

40. Travelling in My Carriage One Day 

Travelling in my carriage one day, I passed a gentleman's house where I saw someone (probably 
a servant) spreading straw mats on the ground. I also noticed a young boy of about ten, with 
long, attractive hair hanging loosely down his back, and a child of about five whose hair was 
piled up under his jacket and whose cheeks were plump and rosy. The child held a funny little 
bow and a stick of some sort. It was quite adorable. How I should have liked to stop my 
carriage, pick them both up, and take them along! 

As I continued on my way, I presently came to another house. They were burning incense, and 
the air was redolent with its scent. 

41. Once When I Was Passing 

Once when I was passing the house of a certain great man, the central gate was open and I 
could see a palm-leaf carriage, which was beautiful and new, and had inside blinds of a 
delightful orange tint. It made a splendid sight as it stood there with its shafts resting on the 
trestles. Several officials of the Fifth and Sixth Ranks were scurrying about in all directions; they 
had tucked the ends of their long robes under their sashes, and their shining white batons were 
thrust into the shoulders of their robes. Many escorts were coming and going in full dress, with 
long, narrow quivers on their backs - most suitable for such a grand household. Then I was 
charmed to see an extremely pretty kitchen-maid who emerged from the house and asked, 
"Have Lord So-and-so's attendants arrived yet?" 

42. Herbs and Shrubs 

Sweet rush and water oats. Hollyhock is a most delightful flower. To think that ever since the 
age of the Gods people have been decorating their hair with it at Festival time! 11661 The plant 
itself is also charming. 

I like the water-plantain ("high face") and, when I hear its name, I am amused to think that it 
must have a swollen head. 

The water-bur and the beach-parsley, the moss and the bear ivy. I also enjoy the grass when its 
blades peep bright and green through the snow. Wood-sorrel makes an uncommonly pretty 
design on figured silk and other material. 

Shrubs that grow in precarious places like the mountain's edge make me uneasy, and I find 
them moving. Stonecrop 11671 is especially pitiful; for it grows on crumbling walls and other 
places that are even more unstable than the mountain's edge. Annoying to think that on a 
securely plastered wall it probably would not grow at all! 

The kotonashi ("nothing wrong") shrub. Either it has no worries, or whatever worries it did have 
are now gone - both explanations of its name are pleasant. 11681 

The shinobugusa ("grass that endures") sounds most pathetic, but it is amazing how vigorously 
this plant grows on the very edge of roofs and walls. 11691 

I am also interested in sage-brush and reed-mace, and I particularly like the leaves of the nut- 
grass. Bulrush, duckweed, green vine, and the scattered chigaya reeds. The so-called horse tail - 
I love imagining the sound that the wind makes when it blows through these rushes. 

Shepherd's purse. A lawn of grass. 

Floating lotus leaves are very pretty when they are spread out, large and small, drifting along 
the calm, limpid water of a pond I If one picks up a leaf and presses it against some object it is 
the most delightful thing in the world. 

Goose-grass, snake's beard, and mountain sedge; club moss, crinum, and the common reed. 

When the wind blows the arrowroot leaves, one can see that their backs are extremely white 
and pretty. 

43. Poetic Subjects 

The capital city. Arrowroot. Water-bur. Colts. Hail. Bamboo grass. The round-leaved violet. Club 
moss. Water oats. Flat river-boats. The mandarin duck. The scattered chigaya reed. Lawns. The 
green vine. The pear tree. The jujube tree. The althea. 

44. Things That Cannot Be Compared 

Summer and winter. Night and day. Rain and sunshine. Youth and age. A person's laughter and 
his anger. Black and white. Love and hatred. The little indigo plant and the great philodendron. 
Rain and mist. 

When one has stopped loving somebody, one feels that he has become someone else, even 
though he is still the same person. 

In a garden full of evergreens the crows are all asleep. Then, towards the middle of the night, 
the crows in one of the trees suddenly wake up in a great flurry and start flapping about. Their 
unrest spreads to the other trees, and soon all the birds have been startled from their sleep and 
are cawing in alarm. How different from the same crows in daytime! 

45. To Meet One's Lover 

To meet one's lover summer is indeed the right season. True, the nights are very short, and 
dawn creeps up before one has had a wink of sleep. Since all the lattices have been left open, 
one can lie and look out at the garden in the cool morning air. 

There are still a few endearments to exchange before the man takes his leave, and the lovers 
are murmuring to each other when suddenly there is a loud noise. For a moment they are 
certain that they have been discovered, but it is only the caw of a crow flying past in the 

In the winter, when it is very cold and one lies buried under the bedclothes listening to one's 
lover's endearments, it is delightful to hear the booming of a temple gong, which seems to 
come from the bottom of a deep well. The first cry of the birds, whose beaks are still tucked 
under their wings, is also strange and muffled. Then one bird after another takes up the call. 
How pleasant it is to lie there listening as the sound becomes clearer and clearer! 

46. A Lover's Visit 

A lover's visit is the most delightful thing in the world. But when the man is a mere 
acquaintance, or has come for a casual chat, what a nuisance it can be! He enters the lady's 
room, where numerous other women are ensconced behind the blinds chatting to each other, 
and he gives no sign that his visit will be brief. The attendants who have accompanied him sit 
outside impatiently, convinced that "the handle of his axe will rot away". [1701 They yawn loudly 
and complain of their lot. "Oh, the bondage!" they mutter to themselves. "Oh, the suffering! 

[ml It must already be past midnight." Probably they do not realize that anyone is listening, and 
in any case their words mean little. [1721 Yet it is disagreeable to hear such remarks, and one's 
visitor finds that the things he would normally be enjoying on such a visit have lost their charm. 

Sometimes the attendants do not dare put their sentiments into words but clearly show them 
by the look on their faces and by the great groans that they let forth. At such times I find it 
amusing to recall the poem about the waters seething far below". [1731 But, if they go and stand 
by a fence in the garden and say, "It looks like rain," [174] or words to that effect, I find it hateful. 

The attendants who accompany young noblemen and other people of quality never behave in 
this rude way; but such things often happen with men of lower rank. When paying a visit, a man 
should take along only those attendants whose character is known to him. 

47. Rare Things 

A son-in-law who is praised by his adoptive father; a young bride who is loved by her mother-in- 

A silver tweezer that is good at plucking out the hair. 

A servant who does not speak badly about his master. 

A person who is in no way eccentric or imperfect, who is superior in both mind and body, and 
who remains flawless all his life. 

People who live together and still manage to behave with reserve towards each other. However 
much these people may try to hide their weaknesses, they usually fail. 

To avoid getting ink stains on the notebook into which one is copying stories, poems, or the 
like. If it is a very fine notebook, one takes the greatest care not to make a blot; yet somehow 
one never seems to succeed. 

When people, whether they be men or women or priests, have promised each other eternal 
friendship, it is rare for them to stay on good terms until the end. 

A servant who is pleasant to his master. 

One has given some silk to the fuller and, when he sends it back, it is so beautiful that one cries 
out in admiration. 

48. The Women's Apartments along the Gallery 

The women's apartments along the gallery of the Imperial Palace are particularly pleasant. 
When one raises the upper part of the small half-shutters, the wind blows in extremely hard; it 
is cool even in summer, and in winter snow and hail come along with the wind, which I find 
agreeable. As the rooms are small, and as the page-boys (even though employed in such august 
precincts) often behave badly, we women generally stay hidden behind our screens or curtains. 
It is delightfully quiet there; for one cannot hear any of the loud talk and laughter that disturb 
one in other parts of the Palace. 

Of course we must always be on the alert when we are staying in these apartments. Even 
during the day we cannot be off our guard, and at night we have to be especially careful. But I 
rather enjoy all this. Throughout the night one hears the sound of footsteps in the corridor 
outside. Every now and then the sound will stop, and someone will tap on a door with just a 
single finger. It is pleasant to think that the woman inside can instantly recognize her visitor. 
Sometimes the tapping will continue for quite a while without the woman's responding in any 
way. The man finally gives up, thinking that she must be asleep; but this does not please the 
woman, who makes a few cautious movements, with a rustle of silk clothes, so that her visitor 
will know she is really there. Then she hears him fanning himself as he remains standing outside 
the door. 

In the winter one sometimes catches the sound of a woman gently stirring the embers in her 
brazier. Though she does her best to be quiet, the man who is waiting outside hears her; he 
knocks louder and louder, asking her to let him in. Then the woman slips furtively towards the 
door where she can listen to him. 

On other occasions one may hear several voices reciting Chinese or Japanese poems. One of the 
women opens her door, though in fact no one has knocked. Seeing this, several of the men, 
who had no particular intention of visiting this woman, stop on their way through the gallery. 
Since there is no room for them all to come in, many of them spend the rest of the night out in 
the garden - most charming. 

Bright green bamboo blinds are a delight, especially when beneath them one can make out the 
many layers of a woman's clothes emerging from under brilliantly coloured curtains of state. 

[175) The men who glimpse this sight from the veranda, whether they be young noblemen with 
their over-robes inform ally left unsewn in the back, or Chamberlains of the Sixth Rank in their 
costumes of green, do not as a rule dare enter the room where the woman is seated. It is 
interesting to observe them as they stand there with their backs pressed to the wall and with 
the sleeves of their robes neatly arranged. Charming also, when one is watching from the 

outside, is the sight of a young man clad in laced trousers of dark purple and in a dazzling Court 
robe over an array of varicoloured garments, as he leans forward into the woman's room, 
pushing aside the green blind. At this point he may take out an elegant inkstone and start 
writing a letter, or again, he may ask the woman for a mirror and comb his side locks; either is 

When a three-foot curtain of state has been set up, there is hardly any gap between the top of 
the frame and the bottom of the head-blind; fortunately the little space that remains always 
seems to come precisely at the face-level of the man who is standing outside the curtains and 
of the woman who is conversing with him from inside. What on earth would happen if the man 
was extremely tall and the woman very short? I really cannot imagine. But, so long as people 
are of normal height, it is satisfactory. 

I particularly enjoy the rehearsal before the Special Festival 11761 when I am staying in the 
women's apartments at the Palace. As the men from the Office of Grounds walk along, they 
hold their long pine torches high above them; because of the cold their heads are drawn into 
their robes, and consequently the ends of the torches are always threatening to bump into 
things. Soon there is the pleasant sound of music as the players pass outside the women's 
apartments playing their flutes. Some of the young noblemen in the Palace, fascinated by the 
scene, appear in their Court costumes and stand outside our rooms chatting with us, while their 
attendants quietly order people to make way for their masters. All the voices mingle with the 
music in an unfamiliar and delightful way. 

Since the night is already well advanced, one does not bother to go to bed but waits for the 
dawn when the musicians and dancers return from their rehearsal. Soon they arrive, and then 
comes the best part of all when they sing "The rice flowers from the freshly-planted fields". 11771 

Almost everyone enjoys these things; but occasionally some sober-sides will hurry by, without 
stopping to watch the scene. Then one of the women calls out laughingly to him, "Wait a 
moment. Sir! How can you abandon the charms of such a night? Stay for a while and enjoy 
yourself!" But evidently the man is in a bad mood, for he scurries along the corridor, almost 
tumbling over himself in his haste, as though in terror of being pursued and captured. 

49. It Was during one of Her Majesty's Periods of Residence 

It was during one of Her Majesty's periods of residence in the building of the Empress's Office. 
Although we were somewhat cut off from things, we enjoyed being in such a tall building and 
the ancient trees that stretched far into the distance behind the Office delighted us. One day it 
was reported that there was a demon in the main room. Everything had to be taken out, and 
we arranged the screens and other furniture so as to keep the demon out of the rest of the 
house. We told the maids to put Her Majesty's curtains of state in the front part of the building, 
south of the main room, and we women moved into an adjoining chamber. 

All the time we could hear the cries of "Make way!" that preceded the approach of High Court 
Nobles and senior courtiers as they went from the gate of the Inner Palace Guards past the 
guard-house of the Left Guards. The cries for the senior courtiers were shorter than those for 
the High Court Nobles, and we had heated discussions about which were the "big cries" and 
which the "small cries". 11781 Since we had often heard these voices, we were usually able to 
recognize them. "That's Lord So-and-so they're announcing," one of us would say. "No it isn't," 
another woman would insist, and then we would have to send a servant to find out who was 
right. It was amusing to hear the first woman say, "Well, you see I knew." 

Early one morning, when a pale moon still hung in the sky, we went out into the garden, which 
was thick with mist. Hearing us. Her Majesty got up herself, and all the ladies in attendance 
joined us in the garden. As we strolled about happily, dawn gradually appeared on the horizon. 
When eventually I left to go and have a look at the guard-house of the Left Guards, all the other 
women ran after me, crying that they wanted to come along. On our way we heard a group of 
senior courtiers, who were evidently bound for the Empress's palace, reciting "So on and so 
forth - and the voice of autumn speaks". [179] We therefore hurried back to the palace to 
converse with the gentlemen on their arrival there. "So you have been out moon-viewing," said 
one of them admiringly and composed a poem in praise of the moon. 

Both during the day and at night the senior courtiers were always paying us such visits. High 
Court Nobles too, unless they were in an uncommon hurry, used to call on us whenever they 
were going to or from the Imperial Palace. 

50. On the Day after the Naming of the Buddhas 

On the day after the Naming of the Buddhas the screens with the paintings of Hell were carried 
into the Empress's apartments for her to see. They were terrifying beyond words. 11801 

"Look!" said Her Majesty. But I replied that I had no desire to see them; I was so frightened that 
I went and lay down in my room next door where I could hide myself from the screens. 

It was raining very hard. Since the Emperor declared that he was bored, some of the senior 
courtiers were summoned to the Empress's apartments for a concert. Michikata, the Minor 
Counsellor, played splendidly on the lute. Lord Narimasa played the thirteen-string zither, 
Yukinari the ordinary flute, and Captain Tsunefusa the thirteen-pipe flute. 11811 They gave a 
delightful performance of one piece; then, after the sound of the flute had stopped. His 
Excellency the Major Counsellor, Korechika, chanted the line. 

The music stops, but the player will not speak her name. 11821 

While all this was going on, I lay out of sight in my room; but now I got up and went into the 
Empress's apartments. "What ever guilt this may bring upon me," 11831 1 said as I entered, "I 
cannot resist such a charming recitation." Hearing this, the gentlemen all burst out laughing. 

I recall that there was nothing very remarkable about the Major Counsellor's voice; yet it 
seemed to have been made especially for the occasion. 

51. The Captain First Secretary, Tadanobu 

The Captain First Secretary, Tadanobu, 11841 having heard certain false rumours, began to speak 
about me in the most unpleasant terms. "Flow could I have thought of her as a human being?" 
was the sort of thing he used to say. 

One day I learnt that he had gone so far as to speak badly about me in the Senior Courtiers' 
Chamber. I felt terribly ashamed, but I laughed and said, "Flow distressing if what he said were 
correct! As it is, he's sure to find out the truth soon enough, and then he'll change his mind 
about me. Shortly afterwards Tadanobu heard my voice when passing near the Black Door, 11851 
and, with out even glancing at me, he covered his face with his sleeve. Despite his dislike of me, 
I never tried to explain matters, and let time pass without so much as looking at him. 

Towards the end of the Second Month it rained a great deal and time hung on my hands. One 
day someone told me that Tadanobu was secluded in Seiryo Palace on the occasion of an 
Imperial Abstinence 11861 and that he had been overheard to re mark, "After all, things do seem a 
bit dreary since I stopped seeing Shonagon. I wonder if I shan't send her a message." "I don't 
believe a word of it," I replied. Yet I spent the entire day in my room, thinking that a messenger 
might arrive, and by the time I went to the Empress's apartments I found that she had already 
retired for the night. The ladies-in-waiting on duty were seated in a group near the veranda; 
they had drawn up a lamp and were playing a game of parts. 11871 

"Oh, good!" they cried when they saw me. "Come and join us!" Yet I felt depressed and 
wondered why I had come. Instead of joining the women, I sat down by a brazier; but presently 
they had all gathered round me and we started chatting to each other. Just then there was a 
loud cry outside the room: "A messenger is here!" 11881 

That's strange," I said. "I've only just arrived. What can have happened since I left my room?" I 
sent a maid to find out; when she returned, she told me that the man was from the Office of 
Grounds and that he had a message which he must at all costs deliver to me personally. I went 
out and asked the man what had happened. "Flere is a letter for you from the Captain First 
Secretary," he said. "Please answer it without delay." 

In view of Tadanobu's attitude, I wondered what sort of a letter he could have written; but, 
since I did not want to hurry through it then and there, I told the messenger that he could leave 
and that I would send my reply presently. Tucking the letter in the breast of my robe, I returned 
to my companions. 

We were once more chatting away when the messenger returned and said, "His Excellency, the 
Captain, ordered me to bring his letter back to him if there was no immediate reply. Please be 

quick." It was all as strange as a tale from Ise. [189] I examined the letter. It was elegantly written 
on heavy blue paper, and there was nothing about it to worry me. I opened it and read: 

With you it is flower time 

As you sit in the Council Hall 

Neath a curtain of brocade. 11901 

And below this he had added, "How does the stanza end?" 

I was at a complete loss. If Her Majesty had been there, I should have asked her to look at the 
letter and give her opinion; but unfortunately she was asleep. I had to prove that I knew the 
next line of the poem, but were I to write it in my somewhat faltering Chinese characters it 
would make a bad impression. I had no time to ponder since the messenger was pressing for a 
reply. Taking a piece of burnt-out charcoal from the brazier, I simply added the following words 
at the end of Tadanobu's letter: 

Who would come to visit 

This grass-thatched hut of mine? 

Then I told the messenger to take it back to Tadanobu. I waited for a reply, but none came. 

I spent the night in the Empress's apartments with the other ladies-in-waiting. Very early on the 
following morning, when I had returned to my own room, I heard Captain Tsunefusa call in a 
booming voice, "Is Grass Hut here? Is Grass Hut here?" 

"How could anyone with such a vulgar name be staying here?" I asked. "Now, if you were to ask 
for Jade Tower, you might get a reply." 11911 

"Ah, good!" said Tsunefusa. "So you are in your room. I was prepared to go all the way to the 
Palace to find you." He then told me what had happened on the previous evening. He and 
several officials of the Sixth Rank and above (all of them gentlemen of some talent) had been 
with Tadanobu in the Captain's night duty room. In the course of their conversation, while they 
were discussing various people and events, Tadanobu said, "I have completely broken with 
Shonagon. But even now that it is all over between us I find it hard to leave things as they are. I 
have been waiting for her to make some move to bring us together again, but she does not 
seem to give it the slightest thought. Really, I find this indifference of hers most galling... Well, 
tonight I am going to make up my mind about her once and for all and settle things properly." 

We all discussed the matter," continued Tsunefusa, "and it was decided that he should put you 
to the test by means of a letter. But, when the messenger returned, he told us that you had 
gone back to your room and could not read the letter at once. Hearing this, Tadanobu sent the 
man back again with the instructions, "This time seize her by the sleeve and get a reply from 
her willy-nilly! But in any case bring back my letter!" 

"Despite the heavy rain the messenger was soon back in the night-duty room. "Here it is," he 
said, producing a letter from the folds of his robe. It was the same blue piece of paper that 
Tadanobu had sent. We wondered whether you had returned it without perusal. But, when 
Tadanobu unfolded it, he gave an exclamation of surprise, and we all gathered round him 
curiously. "What a rogue she is!" he said. "How can one break with a woman like that?" We 
examined the letter excitedly, "We'll have to send it back to her with the first three lines 
added," 11921 said someone. "Come, Captain Tsunefusa, you provide the missing lines!" We 
stayed up until late at night cudgelling our brains for the right words, but in the end we had to 
give up. We then decided that this was an incident that people must hear about." 

I was quite embarrassed by Tsunefusa's praise. "So now," he added, as he hurriedly took his 
leave, "you have acquired the name of Grass Hut." "That's all very well," thought I, "but it's 
hardly a name I should like to keep indefinitely." 

Just then Norimitsu, the Assistant Master of the Office of Palace Repairs, 11931 arrived in my 
room, "I thought you would be in the Palace," he said, "and I have just been there to tell you 
how delighted I was by the news." "Why so delighted ?" I said."l haven't heard about any 
official appointments. What post did you get?" "No, no," replied Norimitsu. "It's about your 
answer to Tadanobu yesterday evening. I've been waiting all night to tell you how pleased I 
was. There's never been anything like it." 

He then related the whole story that I had heard from Captain Tsunefusa. "Tadanobu told us 
that he would finally make up his mind about you depending on your reply to his letter. If it 
turned out to be unsatisfactory, he was going to break with you once and for all. When the 
messenger came back the first time empty handed, I decided that this was in fact a good sign. 
The next time, when he returned with your answer, I was so curious to know what you had said 
that my heart was pounding. To tell the truth, it occurred to me that, if your answer was 
inadequate, this would reflect on me too as your elder brother. As it turned out, it was not 
merely adequate; it was outstanding. Everyone in the room praised it warmly, and one of the 
old men told me, "This is something for you to hear since you're her elder brother." 

"Of course I was delighted, but I kept it to myself and simply said, "I am totally incompetent in 
matters of this kind." "We aren't asking for your criticism," was the reply, "and we don't even 
expect you to understand what she wrote. But we do want you to tell people about it." This 
was rather mortifying for your elder brother, but I found some satisfaction in the difficulties 
they themselves had in framing a reply. "We simply can't find the right opening lines," they 
said. "But, after all, is there any special reason that we have to send a return poem?" 11941 Still 
they did not give up. Since they realized that to produce a feeble reply would be worse than 
nothing at all, they stayed there till the middle of the night racking their brains for the proper 

"Well now, surely we both have good cause to rejoice. Even if I had been given a promotion 
during the period of official appointments, it would have been as nothing compared to this." 

Listening to Norimitsu, I was most vexed at the idea that all these men had been sitting in 
judgement on me without my knowledge. 

(As for the matter of "younger sister" and "elder brother", everyone from the Emperor and 
Empress down knew about it, and even in the Palace people called Norimitsu "elder brother" 
instead of designating him by his office.) 

Norimitsu and I were still talking when a servant came to my room and told me to report at 
once to Her Majesty. As soon as I was in her presence I realized that she had called me to 
discuss what I had written to Tadanobu. "The Emperor has been here," she said, "and he told 
me that all his gentlemen have your reply written on their fans." I was amazed and wondered 
who could have spread the news. 

Thereafter Tadanobu no longer hid his face behind his sleeve when we met and he seemed to 
have altered his opinion of me. 

52. On the Twenty-Fifth of the Second Month 

On the twenty-fifth of the Second Month in the following year Her Majesty moved to the 
Empress's Office. I did not accompany her but stayed behind in Umetsubo Palace. [19S1 On the 
next day a message came from Tadanobu: "Last night I visited the temple at Kurama. Since the 
direction to the capital is closed this evening, I am taking a detour and expect to be back before 
dawn. [1961 There is something I must tell you. Please wait for me and be ready to open the door 
as soon as I knock." 

It happened, however, that Her Highness, the Mistress of the Robes , [197] sent me a message. 
"Why stay alone in your room?" she wrote. "Come and spend the night here." Accordingly I 
went to her. 

It was late on the following morning when I got up and returned to my room. My maid was 
waiting for me. "Last night," she said, "someone was knocking very loudly at the door. In the 
end I had to get up. The visitor ordered me to announce to my mistress that the man who had 
promised to come had now arrived. I replied that you would pay no attention to such a 
message and went back to bed." 

I was feeling very annoyed about all this when a messenger came from the Office of Grounds 
and said, "His Excellency, the First Secretary, wishes to inform you that he has to leave at once 
but that first he has something he must tell you." 

If Tadanobu were to visit me in my own room, he would prob ably open the blinds and do other 
such bothersome things. The idea made me nervous, so I told the messenger that I was going to 
the Palace on business; if His Excellency wanted to see me, he should come there. I then went 
to Umetsubo Palace and had just opened the half-shutters at the east end of the main room 
when Tadanobu arrived. I asked him to approach the blinds behind which I was sitting. He 

looked magnificent as he came towards me. His resplendent, cherry-coloured Court cloak was 
lined with material of the most delightful hue and lustre; he wore dark, grape-coloured 
trousers, boldly splashed with designs of wisteria branches; his crimson under-robe was so 
glossy that it seemed to sparkle, while underneath one could make out layer upon layer of 
white and light violet robes. As the veranda on which he sat was very narrow, he leaned 
forward so that the top part of his body came almost up to the blind and I could see him clearly. 
He looked like one of the gentlemen who are depicted by painters or celebrated by the writers 
of romances. 

The plum blossoms in front of the Palace (red ones on the left and white ones on the right) 
were just beginning to scatter; yet they were still very beautiful. The sun brilliantly lit up the 
whole scene—a scene that I should have liked everyone to view. To make it still more charming, 
the woman nestling close to the blinds should have been a young lady-in-waiting with beautiful, 
long hair cascading over her shoulders. Instead it was I, an old woman who had long since seen 
her best years, and whose hair had become so frizzled and dishevelled that it no longer looked 
as if it belonged to her head. [198] To make matters worse, we were still in mourning 11 " 1 and 
most of the ladies at Court wore special clothes, mine all being of such a light grey hue that 
they hardly seemed to have any colour at all and one could not tell one garment from another. 
Since Her Majesty was away, I was wearing an ordinary long robe without a formal skirt and 
train. Alas, there was not one good thing about me, and I quite spoiled the beauty of the scene! 

"I am on my way to the Empress's Office," said Tadanobu. "Do you want me to take a message? 
And when will you be going yourself?" 

"Well," he continued, "it was not yet dawn when I left the place where I stayed last night. Since 
I had already told you my plans, I expected that you would be waiting for me. It was a clear, 
moonlit night. As soon as I arrived from the West City, 12001 I came and knocked on your door. It 
took me a long time to arouse your maid. When she finally got out of bed, what a vulgar 
creature she turned out to be and how rudely she answered me!" Tadanobu laughed, and went 
on: "It was a terrible disappointment. How can you have left someone like that in your room?" 

Tadanobu had good reason to be annoyed, and as I heard his story I was both sorry for him and 
amused. He left soon after. It occurred to me that the people who had noticed him from the 
outside must have wondered what sort of delightful woman could be hidden by the screens, 
while those who were in the back of the room and could see me from behind would never have 
imagined that there was such a splendid gentleman on the veranda. 

At sunset I went up to the Empress's Office. Her Majesty was surrounded by a group of ladies- 
in-waiting, who were arguing about various romances and citing passages that impressed them 
as good or clumsy or disagreeable. The Empress herself dis cussed the qualities and defects of 
Suzushi and Nakatada. 12011 "Well, Shonagon," said one of the ladies-in-waiting, "let's hear your 
opinion of these characters. You must tell us at once. Her Majesty is always talking about 
Nakatada's mean upbringing. What do you think?" 

"For my part," I replied, "I don't see anything so wonderful about Suzushi. I admit that he may 
have succeeded in bringing a heavenly maiden down from the sky by his music, but when did he 
ever do anything important enough to win the hand of an Emperor's daughter?" 

"Good!" exclaimed the lady-in-waiting, realizing that I was on Nakatada's side in the debate. 

"If you'd seen Tadanobu when he came here today," the Empress said, "you would have found 
him far more splendid than all these romantic heroes." "Yes indeed", put in another of the 
ladies-in-waiting, "today he was even more magnificent than usual." 

"It was just so that I could let Your Majesty know at once about Tadanobu's visit that I came 
here this evening," I said, "but I became involved in your discussion about romances." 
Thereupon I told them everything that had happened. 

"We've all seen him," they said, laughing, "but how could we possibly have pieced the whole 
story together?" Then they described Tadanobu's visit. "Oh, the desolation of the West City!" 
he had said to them. "If someone had been there to share it with me... The fences are all 
broken and everything is over grown with moss." "And was there any fern on the tiles?" Lady 
Saisho 12021 had asked. Extremely impressed by her question, Tadanobu had hummed the line, "It 
is not far from the city's western gate..." 

The women were all loud in praising this exchange, and I found their enthusiasm delightful. 

53. When I Stayed Away from the Palace 

When I stayed away from the Palace, [2031 I frequently received visits from senior courtiers and 
other gentlemen. The people of the household where I was staying used to complain about this 
and criticize me. If my visitors had included anyone to whom I was particularly attached, I 
should have resented their com plaints, but such was not the case. As it happened, I had no 
desire to meet them. Yet, if a gentleman comes all the way to see one both during the daytime 
and at night, is it possible to reply that one is not at home and to send him away embarrassed? 

Some of the men who visited my house were almost total strangers, and in the end it became 
too much for me. On the next time when I left Court I therefore decided not to announce 
where I was going-in fact I told hardly anyone except Tsunefusa and Narimasa. 

On one occasion during my absence the Lieutenant of the Guards, Norimitsu, came to see me. 
In the course of our conversation he mentioned that on the previous day His Excellency the 
Imperial Adviser, Tadanobu, had insistently questioned him about my whereabouts. "After all," 
Tadanobu had said, "it hardly seems likely that you would not know where your own sister is 
staying." Norimitsu had continued to protest his ignorance, but Tadanobu had become cross 
and only pressed him the harder. "I really had a difficult time hiding the truth from him," said 
Norimitsu. "It was all I could do not to burst into laughter. To make matters worse, Tsunefusa 
was sitting directly next to us with an unconcerned, innocent look. I knew that if I so much as 

glanced at him I should start giggling. To save myself, I snatched from the table a common piece 
of seaweed 12041 and popped it into my mouth. It must have looked odd, but my ruse saved me 
from giving away your secret. As it was, Tadanobu decided that I really did not know where you 
were. I found it all most amusing." 

"Well," I said, still more emphatically, "whatever you do, don't tell him!" 

Several days passed. Then late one night I heard a loud knocking at the gate. I wondered why 
anyone should make such a terrible disturbance, especially since the gate was quite near the 
house and an ordinary knock would have sufficed. I sent one of the servants to find out who 
was there. It turned out to be a messenger, a soldier in the Imperial Guards, with a letter from 
Norimitsu. 12051 Since everyone was asleep, I drew up a lamp for myself and opened the letter. 
"Tomorrow," I read, "is the Day of Conclusion of the Sacred Readings. 12061 Tadanobu is bound to 
spend all day in the Palace to attend the Emperor and Empress during their abstinence. If he 
urges me again to tell him where my younger sister is, there will be no help for it. I shall 
certainly not be able to hide it this time. Is it all right to let him know where you are? What shall 
I do? I shall act according to your instructions." 

By way of reply I merely wrapped a little seaweed in a piece of paper and sent it to him. 12071 
When Norimitsu came to see me later, he told me that all night long Tadanobu had been after 
him for information. "Without even waiting to find a suitable place," said Norimitsu, "His 
Excellency took me aside and began interrogating me. I can assure you that it was most 
disagreeable to be put to the question like that. Besides, you never told me what I should 
answer, but simply sent that silly bit of seaweed wrapped in paper. I suppose you did it by 

"What a strange mistake that would be!" I thought. "Who would ever wrap up such an object 
and send it to someone?" I was really disgusted with Norimitsu for having so completely missed 
the point, and without a word I took a piece of paper that was lying under the inkstone and 
wrote the following poem: 

Tell no man where she lives— 

The diver in the water's depths— 

Such must have been the meaning of her glance. 12081 

I gave it to Norimitsu, but he pushed it back with his fan, saying, "Ah, you have been good 
enough to write one of your poems for me. But I have no intention of reading it." And he 
hurried out of the room. 

Norimitsu and I had always been on close terms and tried to help each other, but now, without 
anything particular having happened, a coolness came between us. Shortly afterwards I 
received this note from him: "I know that I may have put you out in some way, but please do 
not forget our pact. Even though we are apart, remember that I have been your elder brother." 

I have heard Norimitsu say, "People who are fond of me should spare me their poems or I shall 
have to regard them as enemies. When you feel that the time has come to break with me, just 
send one of those things." So it is possible that Norimitsu never actually read the following 
poem that I sent in reply to his note: 

Smoothly runs the river of Yoshino 

Between Mount Imo and Mount Se. ("Younger Sister" and "Older Brother") 

Yet, should those mountains crumble. 

The river too would vanish from our sight. [2091 

In any case he never answered it. At about the same time he was awarded the head-dress of 
nobility and appointed Assistant Governor of Totomi; and so we parted while still on bad terms. 

54. Things That Give a Pathetic Impression 

The voice of someone who blows his nose while he is speaking. 

The expression of a woman plucking her eyebrows. [210] 

55. Then a Few Months after Our Visit 

Then a few months after our visit to the guard-house of the Left Guards I was staying at home 
when I received this message from the Empress: "Come back quickly. I keep remembering that 
early morning when you went to the guard-house. How can you be so indifferent to it all? 
Surely such an experience must have made a deep impression on you." 

In my reply I assured Her Majesty of my profound respect; then, as a personal touch, I added 
the following: "How could it fail to make an impression on me when even Your Majesty was so 
moved by the scene that she referred to us, her mere attendants, as "heavenly maidens 
hovering in the air"?" [211) The messenger returned presently with these words from the 
Empress: "I wonder why you should have said something to bring discredit on Nakatada, who 
was such a favourite of yours. In any case, leave everything and come back here this very 
evening. I shall resent it greatly if you don't." 

I sent the messenger back with this reply: "If Your Majesty had simply said "slightly annoyed", I 
should consider it a terrible thing. Since you used the word "greatly", I shall return even at the 
risk of my life." So saying, I went back to the Palace. 

56. Once When Her Majesty Was Residing 

Once when Her Majesty was residing in the Empress's Office, Perpetual Readings 12121 were held 
in the western part of the main hall. The usual paintings of the Buddha had been hung for the 
occasion, and several priests were in attendance. On the second day of the readings the voice 
of a common-sounding woman reached us from the veranda. "I expect there'll be some scraps 
from the altar offerings," she said. "How could there be any left overs this early in the service?" 
replied one of the priests. I wondered who the woman might be and went on to the veranda to 
have a look. It turned out to be an old nun dressed in a filthy cotton trouser-skirt which was so 
short and narrow that it seemed more like a sort of tube than an article of clothing. Over this 
she wore something equally dirty which was presumably meant to be a robe but which came 
only about five inches below her sash. She really looked like a monkey. 

What do you want, woman?" I asked. 

"Madam," she replied in an affected tone, "I am a disciple of the Buddha and I was hoping to 
receive the left-overs from his altar. But these priests are so stingy that they grudge the 
smallest gift." She now spoke in a bright, elegant fashion and I was rather touched to see her so 
crushed by misfortune. Yet there was a gaudiness about her manner that annoyed me and I 
said, "So you eat nothing but the Buddha's holy left-overs! How worthy of you!" Seeing my 
expression she said, "Why do you suppose that's all I eat? It's only when I can't get anything 
else that I take left-overs." 

I put some fruit, flat rice cakes, and other things in a basket and gave it to her. She then became 
extremely familiar and began chatting away. Some of the younger ladies-in-waiting joined us on 
the veranda and plied her with all sorts of questions, such as "Do you have a lover?" and 
"Where do you live?", to which she replied with jokes and suggestive quips. When one of them 
asked her whether she could sing and dance, she burst out with 

Who shall share my bed tonight? 

Hitachi no Suke [213] —he's my man! 

His skin is soft to touch. 

This was followed by several other songs in a similar vein. Then she started rolling her head 
round and round, and sang. 

The maple leaves of scarlet 

That tint Otoko's manly peak 

Proclaim that mountain far and wide. [2141 

Her behaviour was most unbecoming. The ladies-in-waiting laughed with disgust and said, "Be 
off with you!", which I found very amusing. "Let's give the woman something before we send 
her packing," said one of them. 

The Empress had heard all this and reprimanded us. "Why have you made her behave in such 
an embarrassing way?" she asked. "I couldn't bear to hear it and I had to stop up my ears. Here, 
give her this robe and send her away at once!" 

The ladies took the robe and threw it at the woman, saying, "Her Majesty has generously given 
you this present. Take off your filthy robe and put on this nice clean one." The nun received it 
with a deep bow; then, draping it over her shoulders, she began to perform a dance of thanks. 
[2151 She was really too repulsive, and we all went indoors. 

Evidently this gift made her feel that she was now fully accepted in Her Majesty's household; 
thereafter she was always coming and going, and soon she had acquired the nickname of 
Hitachi no Suke. She still wore her same dirty robe. We wondered what she had done with the 
one the Empress gave her and we felt quite disgusted with the creature. 

One day when Lady Ukon paid a call. Her Majesty told her about the nun. "My ladies have taken 
it into their heads to be friend her," she said. "She's always coming to see us these days." Then 
she asked Lady Kohyoe to give an imitation of the nun. Lady Ukon burst out laughing. "How can 
I arrange to see her for myself?" she asked. "You really must show her to me. Don't think I'll try 
to take her away. I realize she is Your Majesty's favourite." 

Later there came another nun - a cripple this time, but with a naturally elegant manner. She 
called to us from the veranda; when we went out, she begged for alms, in such an embarrassed 
way that we were truly sorry for her. Her Majesty ordered that she be given a robe and the nun 
prostrated herself on the ground. 

Her movements were much the same as the other nun's, but there was nothing unpleasant 
about her. Just as she was leaving the veranda, weeping for joy, Hitachi no Suke happened to 
arrive and caught a glimpse of her. Thereafter Hitachi did not visit us again for a long time, and 
we soon forgot about her. 

From the tenth day of the Twelfth Month it snowed very heavily. I and the other ladies-in¬ 
waiting gathered large quantities of snow and heaped it in lids; then we decided to build a real 
snow mountain 12161 in the garden. Having summoned the servants, we told them it was on Her 
Majesty's orders, and so they all got to work. Men from the Office of Grounds, who had come 
to do some sweeping, also joined in, and soon the mountain was rising high above the ground. 
Next came some officials from the Office of the Empress's Household, who made suggestions 
and helped build an especially beautiful mountain. There were also a few Assistant Officials 
from the Emperor's Private Office and some more men from the Office of Grounds, so that 
soon we had about twenty people working away. In addition messages were sent to the 
servants off duty, saying that a special stipend would be given to anyone who helped on that 
day, but that those who did not appear for work could expect nothing. This brought the men 
rushing out, except for those who lived far away and could not be informed. 

When the mountain was finished, officials from the Office of the Empress's Household were 
summoned and given rolls of silk tied up in sets of two. They threw the rolls on to the veranda, 
and each of the workmen came and took a set. Having bowed low, they thrust the silk into their 
robes before withdrawing. Some of the Court gentlemen changed from their formal over-robes 
into hunting costume and remained in attendance at the Empress's Office. 

"Well," said Her Majesty, "how long is that mountain likely to last?" 

Everyone guessed that it would be ten days or a little more. 

"And what do you think?" the Empress asked me. "It will last till the fifteenth of the First 
Month," I declared. 

Even Her Majesty found this hard to believe, and the other women insisted that it would melt 
before the end of the year. I realized I had chosen too distant a date; the mountain would last 
until the first of the year at the outside, which was the latest day I should have given. Yet there 
was no taking back what I had said: though I knew the mountain was unlikely to survive till the 
fifteenth, I stuck to my original prediction. 

Towards the twentieth it began raining. There was no sign that the snow was about to melt, but 
the mountain did shrink a little. "Oh, Goddess of Mercy of Shirayama," [2171 I prayed frenziedly, 
"do not let our mountain melt away!" 

On the day we built the mountain Tadataka, the Secretary in the Ministry of Ceremonial, 
arrived with a message from the Emperor. We gave him a cushion and joined him for a talk. 
"Today they're making snow mountains everywhere," he told us. "The Emperor has ordered his 
men to build one in the garden in front of his Palace, and they're also building them in the 
Eastern Palace and in the Koki and Kyogoku Palaces." [2181 Hearing this, I wrote a poem and 
asked the woman standing beside me to recite it: 

That mountain in our garden. 

Which we had thought so rare! 

Everywhere its snowy likeness... 

And we can boast of nothing new. 

Tadataka was impressed. "I would not want to spoil the brilliant effect of your poem by making 
a poor reply," he said, bowing repeatedly. "The next time I find myself outside the blinds of 
some fashionable Court lady I shall repeat your lines." And with that he took his leave. 

I had heard that Tadataka was very fond of poetry, and his behaviour surprised me. When I told 
the Empress about it, she said, "He obviously preferred not to reply at all unless he could 
produce something really good." 

Towards the end of the year the snow mountain seemed to have become smaller, yet it was 
still very high. About noon one day, when I and some of the other women were sitting out on 
the veranda, Hitachi no Suke arrived. "Why haven't we seen you for such a long time?" we 
asked her. "Oh, nothing special," she said. "It's just that something rather sad happened to 
me." "And what may that be?" we asked. "Well," she replied, "I couldn't help feeling that 

Lucky indeed is she. 

That nunnish diver of the briny depths. 

Who is so laden down with gifts 

That she can scarcely drag herself ashore. [2191 

She drawled out her poem, and we all laughed contemptuously. Since no one was paying much 
attention, she made her way up to the snow mountain and walked round it before leaving. 

Later we sent Lady Ukon a message about the visit, and she replied, "Why didn't you bring her 
here? It was really too bad to abandon her like that and make her go all the way to that great 
mountain of yours by herself." This caused us to burst into laughter again. 

New Year came without affecting the snow mountain in any way. 

On the first day of the year it again started snowing heavily. I was happily thinking how the 
snow would gather on the mountain when Her Majesty said, "This has come at the wrong time. 
Leave what was there before and brush away all the new snow." 

Very early on the following morning, as I was going from the Palace to my room, I saw a man 
who looked like a head retainer. He was on his way to the Empress's Office and was shivering 
with cold. On the sleeve of his night-watch costume, which was as green as a citron leaf, I 
noticed a piece of paper, also green, attached to a pine twig. [2201 

"Who sent this?" I asked him. 

"The High Priestess of Kamo," [2211 he replied. 

Realizing at once that this must be something pleasant, I carried the letter to the Empress's 
room. Her Majesty was still in bed, and I did my best to open her lattice-door myself, [2221 using 
for this purpose a go board on which I stood as I tried to push up the heavy grating. The lattice 
was very heavy, but finally one side opened with a creaking sound that wakened the Empress. 
"Why are you doing that?" she asked. I have a letter from the High Priestess," I replied, "which I 
had to deliver to Your Majesty as quickly as possible." "Well," she said, getting up, "it certainly 
is early for a letter." 

Looking inside, she discovered a pair of hare-sticks, each about five inches long. They had been 
placed end to end so that they looked like a single hare-wand; some paper had been wrapped 
round the head of the sticks, which were prettily decorated with sprigs of wild orange, club 

moss, and mountain sedge. But there seemed to be no written message. "Can this really be 
all?" said the Empress. Searching more carefully, however, we found the following verse 
written on a bit of paper wrapped round the end of the stick: 

I thought I heard the woodman's axe 

Echoing through the hills. 

But, oh, it was a gladder sound - 

The cutting of the festive wands. [2231 

As I watched the Empress writing her reply to this letter (which turned out to be the beginning 
of a regular correspondence between her and the High Priestess), I was full of admiration. 
Determined to make her letter as elegant as the one she had received. Her Majesty took the 
utmost pains to correct the wording until she considered it just right. The messenger was 
rewarded with an unlined costume of white material and another of dark red that looked like 
plum blossom. [2241 1 enjoyed watching the man set off in the falling snow with the clothes over 
his shoulder. Unfortunately I never found out what Her Majesty had replied. 

Meanwhile our snow mountain, dirty and unattractive though it had become, showed no sign 
of melting; and one would really have thought that it belonged to the northern land of Koshi. 

I prayed that somehow it would survive until the fifteenth. I was convinced that I would win, 
but some people insisted that it would not outlast the seventh. We had all decided to wait and 
see what happened when suddenly on the third of the month the Empress was obliged to 
return to the Imperial Palace. This was a great disappointment, and at first I seriously thought 
that we would never know the outcome. "Well," said everyone (including Her Majesty), "it was 
all very delightful. What a shame we couldn't see it to the end!" 

I determined then that, if my original guess turned out to be correct, I would show Her Majesty 
the remaining snow what ever happened. I realized that this would require special steps, so I 
took advantage of the confusion of packing and moving to summon a gardener who lived in a 
hut near the wall of the Empress's Office. When he came to the veranda where I was sitting, I 
told him to take extremely good care of the mountain. "Make sure it lasts until the fifteenth," I 
said, "and don't let any children climb up and scatter the snow. If you look after it really well 
and it lasts until the middle of the month. Her Majesty will give you a generous reward, and I 
too shall show you my gratitude." So saying, I gave him some cakes and other food that I had 
got from the reserve that was always kept in the kitchen for poor people. 

The gardener beamed. "That will be quite simple. Madam, he said, "I shall certainly guard your 
mountain for you, though it may be difficult to stop the children from climbing... "If they refuse 
to obey," I said, "tell them whom they are dealing with!" 

I then accompanied Her Majesty back to the Palace and stayed there until the seventh. During 
this time I was so worried about the mountain that I was forever dispatching under-servants. 

bathroom servants, and housekeepers with instructions for the gardener. On the seventh I sent 
him some of the left-overs from the Festival of Young Herbs; when the servants returned, I 
heard them laughing at the reverent way in which the gardener had received the gifts. 

After I had gone home on the seventh, I was still greatly concerned with the mountain and early 
each morning I sent some one to look at it. On the tenth my messenger delighted me by saying 
that it would last for another five days or so. On the night of the thirteenth, however, it rained 
very hard, and I thought with distress that now my mountain must surely have melted. I stayed 
awake all night, lamenting that it could not possibly survive another day, let alone the 
necessary two. The people who heard me laughed and said I was mad. As soon as there was a 
sound of stirring in the house, I got up and tried to arouse one of the maids. The lazy wench 
would not budge. Thoroughly annoyed, I sent another servant, who was already awake, to 
inspect the mountain. "Well, Madam," she told me on her return, "it is now about the size of a 
round straw cushion. The gardener has been looking after it very efficiently and has not let any 
children come near. It should last like this until tomorrow or even the next day. The gardener 
says that he is now confident of receiving his reward." 

I was overjoyed and decided that, with the arrival of the fifteenth, I should dash off a poem and 
send it to the Empress together with some of the snow in a basket. 

Anxiously I awaited the following day, and before dawn I gave my maid a large chip-basket, [225] 
telling her to fill the cover with snow from those parts of the mountain where it was still white. 
"Use a rake," I said, "and throw away all the dirty snow." 

She was back almost at once with the cover of the chip-basket dangling, still empty, from her 
hand. "It's gone," she announced. I was dumbfounded. The splendid poem that I had composed 
with such effort, thinking that soon it would be on everyone's lips, now seemed foolish and 
useless. "But how," I asked dejectedly, "can such a large heap of snow have melted over night?" 

The gardener was wringing his hands, the maid said excitedly. "He told me that the snow was 
there until late last night and he was counting on his reward, but that now of course he would 
get nothing." 

Just then a messenger arrived with a note from the Empress asking whether the snow had 
lasted. Mortifying as it was, I had to reply that none was left. "Tell Her Majesty," I said, "that 
the snow, which the older women said would melt last month and in any case before New 
Year's Day, was still there yesterday at sunset. I don't think I did so badly. If it had actually 
lasted until today, my prediction would have been too accurate. I dare say that during the night 
someone removed the snow out of spite and flung it away." 

When I returned to the Palace on the twentieth, I discussed the matter with the Empress and 
told her how amazed I had been by the maid's prompt return and by her news. "The cover was 
dangling in her hand," I said, "and she had put the box itself on her head like a hat... I was 

planning to build a beautiful little snow mountain in the lid and to present it to Your Majesty 
with a fine poem written on white paper." 

The Empress burst out laughing and her ladies-in-waiting joined in. "I am afraid I have earned a 
heavy load of sin for having spoiled everything when it meant so much to you," she said. "To 
tell the truth, on the night of the fourteenth I sent some servants to the mountain with orders 
to destroy it and throw away what was left. Strange that in your reply to my note you guessed 
exactly what happened." 

It appeared that, when the Empress's servants arrived at the mountain, the old gardener had 
come out, wringing his hands and begging them not to damage the snow. "We are acting on 
Her Majesty's orders," they had answered. "And don't tell any one, or we shall tear down your 
hut for you." They then took all the snow and threw it over the wall at the south of the guard 
office of the Left Division. According to the servants' report, the mountain was still quite high 
and the snow would certainly have lasted until the twentieth. "In fact," said the Empress, "I am 
afraid your mountain might very well have stood there until it started snowing again next 
winter." When His Majesty heard the story, he commented to his senior courtiers, "Who would 
have thought of having such a strange contest?" 

"Well," said the Empress after she had told me all this, "now you can see that it is just the same 
as if you had actually won. So please let me hear your poem." 

The ladies-in-waiting joined her in asking for my poem, but I felt very unhappy and replied, 
"After what I have just been told, why should I want to recite it?" 

At that moment the Emperor walked into the room and addressed me. "I have always regarded 
you as being like other people," he said, "but now I see what a remarkable woman you really 

This only made me unhappier about my mountain, and I felt I was going to burst into tears. 

"Oh, how sad!" I exclaimed. "What a cruel world we live in! I remember how happy I was when 
it snowed on New Year's Day and the mountain started getting higher, but then Your Majesty 
said it had come at the wrong time and gave orders that all the snow should be swept away." 

The Emperor laughed. "The fact is," he said, "that she probably didn't want you to win." 

57. Splendid Things 

Chinese brocade. A sword with a decorated scabbard. The grain of the wood in a Buddhist 
statue. Long flowering branches of beautifully coloured wisteria entwined about a pine tree. 

Despite his low station a Chamberlain of the Sixth Rank is a splendid thing. To think that he is 
allowed yellowish-green robes of figured material and cloth that even young noblemen of the 
finest families are forbidden to wear! A mere Assistant or Subordinate Official in the Emperor's 

Private Office, who is the son of a commoner and who has gone completely unnoticed while 
serving under gentlemen of rank with official posts, becomes splendid beyond words after 
being appointed Chamberlain. 

A Chamberlain of the Sixth Rank cuts a magnificent figure when he arrives with an Imperial 
mandate or when he brings the sweet chestnuts for the Great Council banquet. [226] Observing 
how he is treated and entertained, one could imagine that he has come down from heaven. 

A girl of noble birth has been chosen as Imperial consort; but she is still living at home, where 
they refer to her as "Princess". When a Chamberlain visits her with a message from the 
Emperor, her lady-in-waiting, before even delivering the letter, first pushes out a cushion for 
him from behind the blinds. As she does so, she displays the sleeves of her dress - a rare sight 
for a man of such humble rank. 

If, in addition to being a Chamberlain, the messenger belongs to the Imperial Guards, things are 
still more impressive. He sits down on the cushion, spreading out the skirts of his under robe, 
and it is the master of the house himself who gives the man a wine cup. What must be his 
delight on receiving such treatment! 

A Chamberlain can keep company with young noblemen as if he were their equal—yes, with 
those same young noblemen whose very sight used to overawe him and who in the past would 
not have deigned to sit in the same room with someone of such low rank. Now it is he who 
inspires jealousy, especially when people see how closely he attends the Emperor, fanning His 
Majesty and rubbing the inkstick for him when he wishes to write a letter. 

The Chamberlain's term of office is three or four years. During this time he is poorly dressed 
and there is nothing very elegant about his personal effects; yet he can mix freely with senior 
courtiers and other superiors. But what does he have to show for it all when his term has 
expired? I am sure that, as the time approaches for him to receive the head-dress of nobility 
and forgo the privilege of being admitted into the Presence, he feels sorrier than if he were to 
lose his own life. It is sad to see how he bustles about the Palace in a frantic effort to secure 
some last favours from the Emperor. In the past, Chamberlains began lamenting the loss of 
their privileges from the very beginning of the year when they were to relinquish their posts. 
Nowadays they compete for new appointments. 

I need hardly say how splendid I find a learned Doctor of Literature. [227] He may be of lowly 
appearance, and of course he is of low rank; but the world at large regards him as an impressive 
figure. As an Imperial Tutor, he is consulted about all sorts of special matters, and he is free to 
approach the most eminent members of the Emperor's family. When he has composed one of 
his prayers for the Emperor or the introduction to some poem, he becomes the object of 
universal praise. 

A learned priest is also splendid. It is impressive enough when he reads his breviary by himself, 
but how much more so when he is among several Lectors officiating in the Sacred Readings 12281 

at one of the fixed periods! It is getting dark. "Why haven't they brought the oil?" says one of 
the Lectors. "How late they are in lighting the lamps!" All the Lectors stop reading, but the 
learned priest continues quietly reciting the scriptures from memory. 

An Imperial Procession by the Empress in daytime. The Empress's birth chamber. 12291 

The ceremony of installing a new Empress. 12301 On this occasion tables are arranged in front of 
her dais together with the lion and the Korean dog. Then the people from the Table Office bring 
in the Imperial Cauldron. As one watches all this, it is difficult to believe that this same Empress 
was recently an ordinary person known simply as "Princess". 

The procession of the First Man. His pilgrimage to Kasuga Shrine. 

Grape-coloured material. 

Anything purple is splendid, be it flowers, thread, or paper. Among purple flowers, however, I 
do not like the iris despite its gorgeous colour. What makes the costume of Sixth Rank 
Chamberlains so attractive when they are on night duty is the purple trousers. 

A large garden all covered with snow. 

The eldest son of our present Emperor is still a child, but how splendid he looks when he is in 
the arms of Their Excellencies, his handsome young uncles, when he is being served by senior 
courtiers, or when his horse is led out for inspection! Seeing the young Prince at such times, 
one would say that nothing unpleasant could ever happen to him. [2311 

58. One Day When the Emperor Visited Her Majesty's Rooms 

One day when the Emperor visited Her Majesty's rooms, we heard that he had taken along the 
lute called Mumyo ("nameless") 12321 and that some of the ladies-in-waiting were strumming it. 
We went to have a look, but no one was playing. One of our group toyed with the strings and 
asked what the instrument was called. "It's far too insignificant to have a name," [2331 said the 
Empress. Hearing her reply, I was once more reminded what an admirable mistress I served. 

The Lady of the Shigei Sha, 12341 who had come to call on the Empress, mentioned in the course 
of conversation that at home she had a very fine thirteen-pipe flute which she had received 
from her late father. Hearing this. His Lordship the Bishop 12351 said, "Please give it to me. I have 
a splendid seven-string zither at home which I hope you will take in exchange." But the Shigei 
Sha paid no attention to him and continued chatting to the Empress. His Lordship repeated the 
request several times, thinking that in the end his sister was bound to reply; but still she said 
nothing. Thereupon Her Majesty said, "No, she certainly has no intention of exchanging it - any 
more than one would exchange the Inakaeji ("no, I will not exchange") 12361 flute." It was a 
delightful re mark; but His Lordship, priest though he was, seemed un familiar with the name of 
this particular flute, and he only felt resentful. (This was at a time when Her Majesty was 

residing in the Empress's Office and there was a flute known as Inakaeji in the Imperial 

The zithers, flutes, and other instruments belonging to the Emperor have certainly been given 
some strange names. Among the lutes are Gensho, Mokuma, Ide, Ikyo, and Mumyo; the six- 
string zithers have names like Kuchime, Shiogama, and Futanuki. I have also heard about Suiro, 
Kosuiro, Uda no Hoshi, Kugiuchi, and Hafutatsu; [2371 and there are many others whose names I 
have forgotten. "Such objects," I remember Tadanobu saying, "deserve to be placed on the 
shelf of honour in Giyo Palace." [2381 

59. A Group of Senior Courtiers 

A group of senior courtiers had spent all day playing the zither and flute outside the bamboo 
blinds of the Empress's apartments in Seiryo Palace. In the evening they retired and went their 
own ways. When the lamp was brought out, the lattices had not yet been lowered and it was 
possible to see clearly through the blinds into the Imperial apartments. There sat the Empress, 
holding her lute lengthwise. She wore a magnificent scarlet robe, and beneath it several layers 
of beaten and stretched silk. Her sleeve was elegantly draped over the glossy, black lute; and 
nothing could have been more splendid than the contrast between her dazzlingly white 
forehead and the dark wood of the instrument. Having glanced at this scene, I went up to one 
of the women who was standing near by and said, "The girl whose face was half hidden can 
certainly not have been as beautiful as this. And she, of course, was a mere commoner." [2391 
When she heard this, the woman forced her way into the Empress's room and reported what I 
had said. Presently she came back and told me that Her Majesty had laughingly asked, "And do 
you know what Shonagon meant by that?", which amused me greatly. 

60. Once in the Fifth Month 

Once in the Fifth Month during the long spell of rainy weather Captain Tadanobu came and 
stood next to the bamboo screen by the door leading to the Empress's apartments. He used a 
most delightful scent, which it was impossible to identify. The air was very damp. [240] Even 
though nothing noteworthy took place, there was something peculiarly elegant about the 
entire scene, which makes me feel bound to mention it. The Captain's scent permeated the 
screen and lingered there till the following day. Small wonder that the younger ladies-in-waiting 
should have felt this was something unique! 

61. One of Her Majesty's Wet-Nurses 

One of Her Majesty's wet-nurses who held the Fifth Rank left today for the province of Hyuga. 
Among the fans given her by the Empress as a parting gift was one with a painting of a 

travellers' lodging, not unlike the Captain of Ide's residence. On the other side was a picture of 
the capital in a heavy rainstorm with someone gazing at the scene. In her own hand the 
Empress had written the following sentence as if it were an ordinary piece of prose [2411 : "When 
you have gone away and face the sun that shines so crimson in the East, be mindful of the 
friends you left behind, who in this city gaze upon the endless rains." It was a very moving 
message, and I realized that I myself could not possibly leave such a mistress and go away to 
some distant place. 

62. Annoying Things 

One has sent someone a poem (or a reply to a poem) and, after the messenger has left, thinks 
of a couple of words that ought to be changed. 

One has sewn something in a hurry. The task seems finished, but on pulling out the needle one 
discovers that one forgot to knot the end of the thread. It is also very annoying to find that one 
has sewn something back to front. 

One day when the Empress was staying in the Southern Palace, [2421 she went to visit His 
Excellency, her father, in the western wing. I and the other ladies-in-waiting were gathered in 
the main building with nothing particular to do. We wandered along the corridors, trying to 
distract ourselves in one way or another. Then a messenger came from Her Majesty. "A robe is 
wanted in a hurry," we were told. "All of you are to get together and make sure that it is 
delivered to the Empress, fully sewn, before the next watch." We were then given some plain 
silk material. 

My companions and I assembled at the front of the main hall, each of us taking a piece of silk 
and each determined to be the first to finish her work. We sat side by side, not facing each 
other, and started sewing at great speed. Nurse Myobu, who did the wide sleeves, finished her 
work before anyone else. In her haste, however, she did not notice that she had sewn one piece 
of material inside out. Without even tying the final knot, she laid down the sleeves and stood 

When it came to putting the different parts of the dress together at the back, we soon realized 
that there had been a mistake. The ladies laughed and scolded the nurse, saying, "You'd better 
do it over again properly." "And who do you sup pose would admit she had made a mistake in 
sewing?" said the nurse. "With patterned silk, of course, one would have to start again if one 
had mistaken the front for the back, but with plain material like this what does it matter? If 
anyone has to do her work again, I don't see why it should be me. Ask the girls who still haven't 
finished their sewing." 

Since she could not be persuaded, the rest of us had to start our work over again. It was really 
amusing to watch the expressions of Gen Shonagon, Shin Chunagon, and the others as they sat 
there plying their needles and muttering, "How does she think she can get away with it?" All 

this because Her Majesty intended to visit the Emperor that evening and had said, "I shall know 
that the one who gets her work done first really loves me." 

It is annoying when a messenger delivers a letter to a person not meant to see it. If he simply 
admitted his mistake, it would not be so bad. But when he begins insisting that he merely 
carried out orders, it is really infuriating. If I were not afraid that someone might see me I 
should rush up and strike him. 

One has planted some nice clover or susuki grass and goes to have a look at it. What a painful 
and annoying experience to find someone with a long box and a spade who has carefully dug up 
the plants and is now carrying them away! If a gentleman were present, the fellow would not 
dare act like this. On being reproached, he answers, "I've only taken a little," and hurries off. 

A retainer of some grand family comes to the house of a provincial official and speaks to him 
rudely with an expression implying, "You may find my manner annoying, but what can you do 
about it?" 

A man snatches a letter that one does not want him to see and takes it into the garden, where 
he stands reading it. One runs after him in a rage. But one cannot go beyond the curtains; and 
there one stops, wishing that one could leap out at the man. 

A woman is angry with her lover about some trifle and refuses to continue lying next to him. 
After fidgeting about in bed, she decides to get up. The man gently tries to draw her back, but 
she is still cross. "Very well then," he says, feeling that she has gone too far. "As you please." 

Full of resentment, he buries himself under his bedclothes and settles down for the night. It is a 
cold night and, since the woman is wearing only an unlined robe, she soon begins to feel 
uncomfortable. Everyone else in the house is asleep, and besides it would be most unseemly 
for her to get up alone and walk about. As the night wears on, she lies there on her side of the 
bed feeling very annoyed that the quarrel did not take place earlier in the evening when it 
would have been easy to leave. Then she begins to hear strange sounds in the back of the 
house and outside. Frightened, she gently moves over in bed towards her lover, tugging at the 
bedclothes, whereupon he annoys her further by pretending to be asleep. "Why not be stand¬ 
offish a little longer?" he asks her finally. 

63. Embarrassing Things 

While entertaining a visitor, one hears some servants chatting without any restraint in one of 
the back rooms. It is embarrassing to know that one's visitor can overhear. But how to stop 

A man whom one loves gets drunk and keeps repeating him self. 

To have spoken about someone not knowing that he could overhear. This is embarrassing even 
if it be a servant or some other completely insignificant person. 

To hear one's servants making merry. This is equally annoying if one is on a journey and staying 
in cramped quarters or at home and hears the servants in a neighbouring room. 

Parents, convinced that their ugly child is adorable, pet him and repeat the things he has said, 
imitating his voice. 

An ignoramus who in the presence of some learned person puts on a knowing air and converses 
about men of old. 

A man recites his own poems (not especially good ones) and tells one about the praise they 
have received—most embarrassing. 

Lying awake at night, one says something to one's companion, who simply goes on sleeping. 

In the presence of a skilled musician, someone plays a zither just for his own pleasure and 
without tuning it. 

A son-in-law who has long since stopped visiting his wife runs into his father-in-law in a public 

64. Surprising and Distressing Things 

While one is cleaning a decorative comb, something catches in the teeth and the comb breaks. 

A carriage overturns. One would have imagined that such a solid, bulky object would remain 
forever on its wheels. It all seems like a dream - astonishing and senseless. 

A child or grown-up blurts out something that is bound to make people uncomfortable. 

All night long one has been waiting for a man who one thought was sure to arrive. At dawn, just 
when one has forgotten about him for a moment and dozed off, a crow caws loudly. One wakes 
up with a start and sees that it is daytime—most astonishing. 

One of the bowmen in an archery contest stands trembling for a long time before shooting; 
when finally he does release his arrow, it goes in the wrong direction. [2431 

65. It Was during the Abstinence of the Fifth Month 

It was during the Abstinence of the Fifth Month 12441 when Her Majesty was residing in the 
Empress's Office. The two-span apartment 12451 in front of the store-room had been especially 
decorated for the occasion, and I enjoyed seeing how different it looked. 

From the beginning of the month it had been dark and rainy. "This is becoming a bore," I said 
one day. "I should like to go somewhere to hear a hototogisu singing. The other women 
enjoyed the idea and said that they wanted to accompany me. One of them suggested a bridge 

behind Kamo Shrine; it had an unpleasant name, something like Weaver Bridge. 12461 "The 
hototogisu sings there every day," she said. "Those aren't hototogisu,” said someone else. 
"They're cicadas." 

Nevertheless we planned to go there, and on the morning of the fifth day we ordered the men 
from the Office of the Empress's Household to get our carriage ready. Since it was the rainy 
season, we decided that no one would object if we left by the gate next to the guard-house at 
the north of the Palace. [2471 The carriage was pulled up to our veranda and four 12481 of us 
climbed inside. "Can't we get another carriage of our own and go along with them?" asked 
some of the other women, but the Empress refused. Though they were very disappointed, we 
set off without listening to their complaints or showing any sympathy. 

As we passed the riding-ground, we noticed a throng of noisy people and asked what was 
happening. It turned out that they were doing archery practice with the great bow. We were 
invited to stay and watch for a while. All the Middle and Minor Captains of the Left Guards 
Division are here," we were told. But we saw no one of the kind; there were only a few officials 
of the Sixth Rank wandering about the place. "Not very interesting, is it?" said one of the 
women. "Let's go on at once." 

So we continued on our way to Kamo, the road reminding us pleasantly of the Festival. 12491 
Since Lord Akinobu's 12501 house lay on our way, someone suggested that we should stop and 
have a look at it. We told our men to draw the carriage up to the veranda and we all got out. It 
was a plain, rustic place. The sliding paper-door with pictures of horses, the wickerwork 
screens, the water-bur blinds - everything seemed deliberately arranged to look old-fashioned. 
The house itself was designed in the simplest style; but, poor and cramped as everything was, it 
still had a certain charm. As for the hototogisu, they were singing to each other so loudly that 
we were almost deafened. It really was a shame that Her Majesty was not there to hear them; 
and we also felt sorry for the women who had wanted so badly to come with us. 

"When one visits a new place," said our host, "it's always interesting to see the local activities." 
He sent for a large quantity of what I took to be rice plants, 12511 and also summoned a number 
of quite pleasant-looking young girls from his own household and some common women from 
the neighbouring farms. Half a dozen threshed the rice, while a couple of others used a 
revolving machine of a type that I had never seen before. As they worked, they sang such a 
strange song that we all burst out laughing and completely forgot about writing our hototogisu 

Next Lord Akinobu ordered his servants to bring out some small tables of the kind one sees in 
Chinese pictures, and we were served a meal. Noticing that none of us paid much attention to 
the food, he said, "I am afraid this is only rough, country fare. 12521 But if you come to this sort of 
place and don't like the food, you must tell your host quite frankly and he will serve you 
something more to your taste. You ladies really are the shyest guests I've ever had." He 

encouraged us to help ourselves. "Do have some of these fern sprouts," he said. "I picked them 
with my own hands." 

"But really," I said, "how can you expect us to sit here eating in a row like a lot of common 
maid-servants?" [253] 

"Of course," said Akinobu and ordered his attendants to remove the dishes. "I should have 
realized that-ladies-in-waiting like you are accustomed to the formality of life in the Palace." 
While the servants were bustling about, taking the dishes off the tables and putting everything 
in order, one of our men came and announced that it was going to rain. So we hurried back to 
our carriage. 

"I should have liked to write my hototogisu poem before we left," I remarked. "Never mind," 
said the others. "You can do it just as well on our way back." 

Before starting, we picked some long branches of u no hana, covered with white blossoms, and 
decorated our carriage with them, so that they hung out of the blinds and sides. It really looked 
as though a great white cloak had been spread across the roof. Our attendants were delighted 
and, laughing loudly, began to stick branches into every possible place, even through the 
bamboo framework of the carriage. "There's still room for some here," they shouted, adding 
bough after bough. "And here's another place." 

I was hoping that we would be seen by someone on our way back. Alas, all we met was an 
occasional indigent priest and a few other people too common to be worth mentioning. As we 
approached the Palace, we decided that we really could not let the outing come to an end 
without making sure that someone would see us and spread the news about our carriage. So 
we stopped next to the Palace of the First Ward and sent a servant to ask for His Excellency, 
Fujiwara no Kiminobu, the Gentleman-in Waiting, [2541 informing him that we were on our way 
back from hearing the hototogisu. "I shall be with you at once, my dear ladies," came the reply. 
The messenger added that His Excellency had gone to the Attendants' Hall and was hurriedly 
changing into Court trousers. We replied that we could not possibly wait and told our driver to 
set off at full speed forTsuchi Gate. [2551 Presently Kiminobu appeared, running after our 
carriage, and accompanied by a number of attendants and lackeys who had not even had time 
to put on their shoes. He had managed to get dressed with amazing speed, but was still tying 
his sash as he dashed along the road. "Wait a minute!" he shouted. "Wait a minute!" We told 
our driver to go still faster and had already reached Tsuchi Gate when Kiminobu caught up with 
us, gasping for breath and extremely flustered. It was only then that he saw how our carriage 
was decorated. "I cannot believe there are real people in there," he said with a laugh. "Do get 
out and let me see you!" The men with him were greatly amused. "And what about your 
poems?" he added. "You must let me hear them." 

"No," I replied, "we have to show them to Her Majesty first." 

At that moment it started to rain in earnest. "I wonder why just this gate had to be built 
without a roof," said Kiminobu. "What a dreadful nuisance on a day like this! How am I ever 
going to get home? When I started running after your carriage, the only thought in my mind 
was not to miss you. It did not occur to me that I might be seen. Oh dear, I really must be 
getting back. How depressing!" 

"Come, come!" I said. "Why don't you go into the Palace with us?" 

"In my lacquered cap?" he said. "How can I do that?" 

"Send for something more formal." 

But now it was really raining heavily, and our men, who had no head-covering, pulled in the 
carriage as quickly as they could. 12561 An attendant brought Kiminobu an umbrella from his 
palace, and someone held it over him while he started to make his way home; he walked slowly 
this time, and there was a melancholy expression on his face as he looked back at us over his 
shoulder. I was pleased to see that in his hand he carried nothing but a spray of u no hana. 

When we came into the Empress's presence, she asked us how things had turned out. The 
ladies who had been left behind were at first resentful and sullen; but, when we described how 
Kiminobu had run after us along the First Avenue, they all joined in laughing. 

"Well now," said Her Majesty, "where are they-your poems?" We explained that we had not 
written any. 

"Really?" she said. "That is most unfortunate. The gentlemen at Court are sure to hear of your 
expedition. How are you going to explain that you haven't got a single interesting poem to 
show for it? You should have dashed off something on the spur of the moment while you were 
listening to the hototogisu. Because you wanted to make too much of it all, you let your 
inspiration vanish. I'm surprised at you! But you can still make up for it. Write something now. 
Surely that is not asking too much. 

Everything that Her Majesty said was true, and we were really distressed by our failure. I was 
discussing possible poems with the other women when a message arrived from Kiminobu. His 
poem was attached to some of the white blossom, and the paper itself was as white as the 

If only I had known 

That you were off to hear the cuckoo's 12571 song, 

I should have sent my heart to join you on your way. 

Since the messenger was awaiting a reply, I asked someone to fetch an inkstone from our 
apartments, but the Empress ordered me to use hers. "Quickly," she said. "Write something on 

A piece of paper had been placed in the lid. 

"Why don't you write the reply?" I said to Lady Saisho. "No, I'd rather you did it," she answered. 
Meanwhile it had been getting dark, and now the rain started coming down again, 
accompanied by great claps of thunder, which so terrified us that we could think of nothing 
except closing the lattices. In our confusion we quite forgot about the messenger. 

The thunder continued rumbling until nightfall. When it eventually stopped, we set about 
writing our poem in earnest. But just at that moment a group of High Court Nobles and senior 
courtiers arrived to ask how the Empress had fared in the thunderstorm, and we had to go to 
the west entrance and talk with them. 

Then at last we could concentrate on our poem. But now the other women withdrew, saying 
that only the person to whom the poem was addressed should be responsible. It was really a 
nuisance: poetry seemed to be having a bad karma 12581 that day. 

"We shall simply have to keep as quiet as we can about our outing," I said with a laugh. 

"I still see no reason," said Her Majesty, "why some of you who went to hear the hototogisu 
can't write a proper poem about it. I suppose it's because you have set your minds against it." 
She looked rather cross; yet even this I found charming. "Yes, Your Majesty," I said, "but by now 
the whole thing's become a bit pointless." 

"Is it all that pointless?" she said. 

The matter of the poem was allowed to drop. 

A couple of days later when we were discussing our excursion. Lady Saisho mentioned the fern 
sprouts that Akinobu said he had picked with his own hands. Her Majesty overheard us. "So 
that is the sort of thing you remember!" she said, laughing. She picked up a stray piece of paper 
and wrote, "A longing for those fern sprouts lingers in her head." 

"Now then," she said to me, "you must provide the opening lines." 12591 1 was delighted and 
wrote, "More than the cuckoo's song she went to hear." 

"Well, Shonagon," said the Empress merrily, "I wonder how you dare mention that bird at all." 

"How so. Your Majesty?" I replied, rather embarrassed. "In any case," I continued, "I have 
decided to give up writing poetry for good and all. If each time there is a poem to be composed 
you call on me to do it, I don't see how I can remain in Your Majesty's service. After all, I don't 
even know how to count the syllables correctly. How can I be expected to write winter poems 
in the spring and spring poems in the autumn and poems about chrysanthemums when the 
plum blossoms are in bloom? I realize that there have been many poets in my family, 12601 and of 
course it's a great satisfaction if one of my verses turns out well and people say, "Of everything 
written on that day Shonagon's was the best. But that's what one would expect considering 
who her father was." The trouble is that I have no particular talent and, if I push myself forward 

and turn out some doggerel as though I thought it were a masterpiece, I feel I am disgracing the 
memory of my ancestors." 

I was speaking quite seriously, but the Empress laughed and said, "In that case you must do 
exactly as you wish. I shan't ask you to write any more poems." 

Late one evening, not long after this incident. His Excellency the Minister of the Centre, 
Korechika, who was making elaborate preparations for the Night of the Monkey, [2611 gave out 
sub jects on which the Empress's ladies-in-waiting were to write poems. They were all very 
excited and eagerly set themselves to the task. Meanwhile I stayed with the Empress and talked 
to her about various things. Presently Korechika caught sight of me. "Why don't you join the 
others and write a poem?" he asked. "Pick your subject." 

"Her Majesty has excused me from poetry," I said, "and I don't have to worry about such things 
any more." 

"How odd!" said Korechika. "I can hardly believe she would allow that. Very well, you may do as 
you like at other times, but please write something tonight." 

But I did not pay the slightest attention. When the poems of the other women were being 
judged, the Empress handed me the following little note: 

Surely it is not you — 

You whom we know as Motosuke's heir— 

That will be missing from this evening's round of verse. 

I laughed delightedly and, when Korechika asked me what had happened, I replied with this 

Were I not known to be the daughter of that man, 

I should have been the very first 
To pen a poem for this night of verse. 

And I added to Her Majesty that, if my father were anyone else, I should have written a 
thousand poems for her without even waiting to be asked. 

66. It Was a Clear, Moonlit Night 

It was a clear, moonlit night a little after the tenth of the Eighth Month. Her Majesty, who was 
residing in the Empress's Office, sat by the edge of the veranda while Ukon no Naishi played the 
flute for her. The other ladies in attendance sat together, talking and laughing; but I stayed by 
myself, leaning against one of the pillars between the main hall and the veranda. 

"Why so silent?" said Her Majesty. "Say something. It is sad when you do not speak." 

"I am gazing into the autumn moon," I replied. "Ah yes," she remarked. "That is just what you 
should have said." 

67. One Day When There Were Several People in the 

Empress's Presence One day when there were several people in the Empress's presence, 
including many senior courtiers and young noblemen, I was leaning against a pillar, chatting 
with some of the other women. Suddenly Her Majesty threw a note at me. "Should I love you or 
should I not?" it said. "What will you do if I cannot give you first place in my heart?" 

No doubt she was thinking of a recent conversation when I had remarked in her hearing, "If I do 
not come first in people's affections, I had just as soon not be loved at all; in fact I would rather 
be hated or even maltreated. It is better to be dead than to be loved in the second or third 
place. Yes, I must be first." Hearing this, someone had said, "There we have the Single Vehicle 
of the Law!", [2621 and everyone had burst out laughing. 

Now the Empress gave me a brush and some paper. I wrote the following note and handed it to 
her: "Among the Nine Ranks of lotus seats even the lowliest would satisfy me." [2631 

"Well, well," said the Empress, "you seem to have lost heart completely. That's bad. I prefer 
you to go on thinking as you did before." 

"My attitude depends on the person in question," I replied. 

"That's really bad," she said, much to my delight. "You should try to come first in the affections 
of even the most important people." 

68. His Excellency the Middle Counsellor, Takaie 

His Excellency the Middle Counsellor, Takaie, [2641 visited the Empress one day and presented 
her with a fan. "I have found a most magnificent fan-frame," he told her. "I want to have it 
covered, but it can't be done with ordinary paper. I am looking for something very special." 

"What sort of a frame is it?" asked Her Majesty. 

"It's absolutely splendid," declared Takaie. "People say they've never seen anything like it 
before, and they're quite right." 

"Well then," I said, "it's not a fan-frame at all. It must be the frame of a jelly-fish." [2651 
"Very amusing!" said Takaie. "Let's take it that I meant to say that myself." 

This incident deserves to be included in my section on "embarrassing things", [266] and perhaps I 
should not have recorded it at all. But I have been told to leave nothing out, and so I really had 
no choice. 

69. Once during a Long Spell of Rainy Weather 

Once during a long spell of rainy weather the Secretary of the Ministry of Ceremonial, 
Nobutsune, 12671 arrived at the Empress's palace with a message from His Majesty. A cushion 
was brought out for him, but he pushed it away even farther than he normally did on these 
occasions and sat down on the floor. 12681 

"Whom do you think that cushion is for?" I asked him. "If I sat on the cushion after being out in 
this rain," he replied with a laugh, "it would get all nasty and stained with my foot marks." 

"How so?" I said. "Are you under the impression that the cushion is to couch your feet on?" 12691 

"There's nothing very clever about that remark," said Nobutsune. "If I hadn't mentioned my 
footmarks, you'd never have thought of your little joke." 

He then kept on pointing out that it was he, not I, who was responsible for the joke. At first I 
found this rather amusing, but after a while I could no longer bear to hear him praising himself 
so lavishly and, turning to the Empress, I told the following story: "Many years ago there lived in 
the palace of the Great Empress 12701 an attendant called Enutagi (Dog's Vomit) who, despite her 
low rank, had made quite a reputation for herself. Fujiwara no Tokikarat (who died while 
serving as Governor of Mino) was at that time a Chamberlain. One day he called at the room 
where many of the lower attendants were gathered and said, "So this is the famous Enutagi! 
Why don't you look like your name?" "I do," she replied, "but it depends on the weather." 
Everyone, including the High Court Nobles and senior courtiers, found Enutagi amusing, 
because even when a trap was set for her in advance she always managed to acquit herself 
cleverly. And the stories about her must be true. They've been handed down for a long time 
without any change. 

"Yes," said Nobutsune, "but it was Tokikara who put the idea into her head. 12711 As for myself," 
he continued, "I can compose a good poem in either Chinese or Japanese on any subject you 
give me." 

"Really?" I replied. "Very well. I'll give you a subject and you will kindly write me a poem in 

"Splendid," said Nobutsune. "But why only one subject? I can just as well handle a whole lot." 

Hearing his boast, the Empress herself proposed a subject, at which Nobutsune promptly took 
his leave, saying, "Dear me, how frightening! I'd better be off." 

"He has an appalling hand," someone explained after he had left the room. "Whether in 
Chinese characters or Japanese script, the results are equally poor. People are always laughing 
at him about it. That's why he had to escape." 

One day when Nobutsune was serving as Intendant in the Office of Palace Works [272] he sent a 
sketch to one of the craftsmen explaining how a certain piece of work should be done. "Kindly 
execute it in this fashion," he added in Chinese characters. I happened to notice the piece of 
paper and it was the most preposterous writing I had ever seen. Next to his message I wrote, "If 
you do the work in this style, it will certainly turn out strangely." The document found its way to 
the Imperial apartments, and everyone who saw it was greatly amused—except, of course, 
Nobutsune, who was furious and after this held a grudge against me. 

70. When the Lady of the Shigei Sha Entered the Crown Prince's Palace 

When the Lady of the Shigei Sha entered the Crown Prince's palace on the tenth of the First 
Month, [273] the ceremonies were carried out with great splendour. She wrote frequently to her 
sister, the Empress, but they did not actually meet. [2741 Then on the tenth of the following 
month the Shigei Sha sent Her Majesty a message that she would come to see her. 

In honour of this visit the Empress's apartments were decorated even more beautifully than 
usual, and everything was especially cleaned and polished. We ladies-in-waiting also pre pared 
ourselves carefully. 

The Shigei Sha arrived very late at night and was taken to the two-span apartment that had 
been prepared for her in the eastern wing of the Toka Palace. As soon as it was dawn the 
lattices were raised, and presently her father, the Chancellor, [2751 arrived in a carriage with his 

In the morning I attended the Empress while her hair was being dressed. A four-foot curtain of 
state had been placed across the main hall, facing the back of the room. Her Majesty was 
seated in the front part of the room, while a group of ladies-in waiting was gathered behind the 
curtain of state. Hardly any furniture had been put out - only a straw mat with a cushion for Her 
Majesty and a round brazier. 

While her hair was being done, the Empress asked me whether I knew the Shigei Sha. "How 
could I possibly know her. Your Majesty?" I replied. "The only time I came near her was during 
the memorial service at Shakuzen Temple, [2761 and then I just glimpsed her from the back." 

"Very well then," said the Empress, "sit behind me and, if you look through the space between 
the curtain and that pillar, you'll be able to see her. Isn't she beautiful?" I was overjoyed to see 
the Shigei Sha and longed for the time when I would get a really good view of her. 

Now the Empress's hair had been dressed, and she was ready to be robed. Over a three-layered 
scarlet dress of beaten silk she wore two plum-red robes, one of heavily embroidered material 

and the other more lightly worked. "Tell me," she said. "Do you think the plum red really goes 
with dark scarlet? I know this isn't the season for plum red, but I can't stand colours like light 
green." [277] 

Unusual though the combination was. Her Majesty looked beautiful. The colour of her clothes 
went perfectly with her complexion and, as I gazed at her, I was impatient to have a proper look 
at the Shigei Sha to see whether she was equally pretty. 

Presently Her Majesty crept out [278] from where she had been sitting. Some of the women 
noticed how I had installed myself by the curtains and was peering at the people in the other 
part of the room. "What a way to behave!" they said, much to my amusement. "Very 

Since the hall was wide open, with no other curtains or screens, I had an extremely good view. 
Her Highness, the Chancellor's wife, wore a white robe over two dresses of scarlet silk, and a 
formal skirt with a long train. Lifting the folds of her skirt, she moved towards the back of the 
room. Since she was turned side ways, I could not see her properly. 

The Shigei Sha, who had moved back a little, was now facing in my direction. She had on several 
plum-red under-robes of different shades, an unlined costume of deep red damask, a long, 
flowing robe of darkish red, and an over-robe of richly embroidered light green silk which made 
her look very young. She held her fan steadily in front of her face. Altogether she was 

His Excellency, the Chancellor, wore a light violet Court cloak, laced trousers of light green 
material, and a scarlet under robe. He faced towards us, leaning against one of the pillars 
between the main part of the hall and the veranda and fastening the cord round the neckband 
of his cloak in a loose knot. At the sight of his beautiful daughters he smiled with delight and 
chatted away in his usual bantering fashion. 

I glanced again at the Shigei Sha, who was looking extra ordinarily pretty. But, when I turned 
back to Her Majesty and saw her tranquil expression, her charming features which had recently 
taken on a more adult cast, [279] and her complexion which went so beautifully with her scarlet 
clothes, I realized that no one in the world could equal her... 

Now the attendants brought water for the Shigei Sha's ablutions. As I recall, there were 
altogether six attendants - two young maids and four servants of lower rank - and they came 
along the galleries through Senyo and Jogan Palaces. [2801 1 noticed that only half a dozen ladies- 
in-waiting were seated under the Chinese roof at our end of the gallery. There was not enough 
room for all the Shigei Sha's ladies, and the others had gone back after escorting their mistress 
to Toka Palace. 

The young attendants were very pretty in their loose, cherry coloured coats, under-skirts of 
light green and plum red, and long trains; I enjoyed watching them take the basin of water from 
the servants and place it next to the Shigei Sha. Also in attendance were Lady Shosho, the 

daughter of Sukemasa (Director of the Bureau of Imperial Stables), and Lady Saisho, the 
daughter of the Gentleman of Kitano of the Third Rank; they were seated next to the Empress, 
and the embroidered silk of their Chinese jackets emerged charmingly from beneath the curtain 
of state. The Palace Girls who were helping the Shigei Sha with her ablutions wore divided skirts 
of green and shaded material, Chinese jackets, waistband ribbons, and shoulder sashes; their 
faces were heavily powdered. The servants passed them what was needed for the ablutions, 
and I was pleased to see how everything was done with proper ceremony in the Chinese style. 

When the time came for the Empress's morning meal, the Palace hairdresser arrived to do the 
hair of the Lady Chamberlains and of the attendants who were to serve Her Majesty. The 
screen behind which I had been peeping was now pushed aside and I felt exactly like a demon 
who has been robbed of his straw coat. [281) I had not seen nearly enough and, rather annoyed 
by the interruption, I moved next to one of the pillars where I could go on watching the scene 
from between a bamboo blind and a curtain of state. However, my train and the skirts of my 
robe stuck out under the blind. His Excellency, the Chancellor, happened to notice this and said 
in a reproachful tone, "Who can it be - she whom I dimly glimpse through a clearing in the 
mist?" [282] 

"It must be Shonagon," replied the Empress. "She is very curious to see what is going on." 

"Oh, how embarrassing!" said the Chancellor, with a smug look. "I've known her for a long time 
and I hate her to see what ugly daughters I have." 

Then the attendants brought in the Shigei Sha's meal. "Really," said the Chancellor, "I'm 
becoming jealous. Now Their Ladyships have been served. I do hope they'll finish their meals 
quickly so that I and my old woman can start on the scraps." [2831 He continued joking like this all 
day long. 

Presently the Major Counsellor and the Middle Captain of the Third Rank 12841 arrived with 
Matsugimi. The Chancellor, who had been waiting for them impatiently, picked up the little boy 
and put him on his knees in a most charming way. The veranda was too narrow for the men's 
formal Court costumes, and their under-robes trailed all over the floor. 

The Major Counsellor looked extremely handsome, and the Middle Captain was impressive for 
his age. As I observed the two young men, it occurred to me that, while the Chancellor could be 
expected to have such splendid sons, their mother's good fortune must be the result of some 
special karma. [2851 The Chancellor told them to sit down on the straw cushions that were spread 
on the veranda; but they hastily took their leave, explaining that they had to report for duty. 

Shortly afterwards a secretary (I do not know his name) came from the Ministry of Ceremonial 
with a message from the Emperor for his wife. The attendants placed a cushion for him in the 
room at the north of the buttery and he sat down, while the Empress hastened to write her 

Before there was even time to remove the cushion, Chikayori, - the Minor Captain of the Inner 
Palace Guards, arrived bearing - a letter from the Crown Prince to the Shigei Sha. Since there 
was no room for Chikayori on the veranda of the gallery, his cushion was placed at the east of 
the main veranda. He handed over the letter, which, after the Shigei Sha had examined it, was 
read in turn by the Chancellor and his wife and also by the Empress. "You had better make 
haste with your reply," the Chancellor told the Shigei Sha; but she did not seem to be in any 
hurry. "Why aren't you writing?" said the Chancellor. "I suppose it's because I am watching you. 
Otherwise you'd have answered at once with out any prompting from me." I was delighted to 
see the girl blushing slightly as she smiled at her father's words. Now her mother also told her 
to hurry up and produce an answer. She accordingly sat down, facing the back of the room, and 
started to write with the help of her mother, who came and sat next to her. I noticed that the 
Shigei Sha was looking more and more embarrassed. 

As a gift for the messenger the Empress produced a formal, wide-sleeved robe of light green 
material together with a trouser-skirt. These were pushed out from beneath her blind, and the 
Middle Captain of the Third Rank gave them to the man. It was clear from his attitude as he 
took the clothes and left that he was not too pleased with his reward. 

Meanwhile Matsugimi babbled away; everyone was delighted and made a great fuss over him. 

"I don't suppose there would be any harm in passing him off as the Empress's child," said the 
Chancellor. Of course he was joking, but his words made me worry about why Her Majesty had 
not yet done what His Excellency had in mind. 12861 

At about the Hour of the Sheep the Emperor appeared with a great rustling of silk robes. So 
sudden was his arrival that there was not even time to announce that the mats leading to the 
entrance had been laid out for him. The Empress joined her husband and they both promptly 
retired to the curtain-dais, while the ladies-in-waiting went and sat in the front of the 
anteroom. I noticed that the gallery was full of senior courtiers. The Chancellor summoned 
servants from the office of the Empress's Household and made them bring fruit and other 
dishes to be eaten with wine. "Now let everyone get drunk," he said. And everyone did get 
drunk. 12871 The gentlemen began to exchange remarks with the ladies-in-waiting and they all 
found each other extremely amusing. 

At sunset His Majesty got up and called for the Major Counsellor, Yamanoi. Then, having 
ordered his gentlemen to help him on with his Court robes, he left for his Palace. 12881 He was 
resplendent in his cherry-blossom Court cloak and his crimson robe which reflected the light of 
the evening glow - but His Majesty is such an awe-inspiring figure that I cannot continue writing 
about him like this. 

Yamanoi was not on very close terms with his brothers. He looked magnificent, handsomer 
even than Korechika; but un fortunately people were always running him down. 

As he set out for his Palace, the Emperor was escorted by His Excellency the Chancellor, the 
Major Counsellor Yamanoi, the Middle Captain of the Third Rank, and the Director of the 

Imperial Storehouse. [2891 Later, Lady Uma no Naishi arrived with a message from His Majesty 
asking the Empress to come to him. She did not want to go, however, and replied that it was im 
possible for her that evening. "That will never do," said the Chancellor when he heard this. "You 
must go to him at once." 

There was also a constant stream of messengers from the Crown Prince. Ladies-in-waiting who 
had come from the Emperor's Palace and from the Crown Prince's residence were bustling 
about, urging Her Majesty and the Shigei Sha to make haste and join their husbands. 

"Very well," said the Empress, "but first you must escort my sister." 

"How can I possibly go ahead of you?" asked the Shigei Sha. 

"Whatever you may say," insisted the Empress, "it is I who will see you off." I found their 
conversation both amusing and delightful. Eventually the two sisters agreed that the one who 
had farther to go should leave first, and so the Shigei Sha went before the Empress. After she 
had gone, the Chancellor and the other gentlemen departed; then finally Her Majesty set off for 
the Emperor's Palace. The people who accompanied the Chancellor were laughing so heartily at 
his jokes that they almost fell off the bridge. [290] 

71. On the Last Day of the Second Month 

On the last day of the Second Month, when there was a strong wind, a dark grey sky, and a little 
snow, a man from the Office of Grounds came to the Black Door and asked to speak to me. He 
then approached and gave me a note which he said was from Kinto, the Imperial Adviser. [291] It 
consisted of a sheet of pocket paper on which was written. 

And for a moment in my heart 

I feel that spring has come. 

The words were most appropriate for the weather, but what concerned me was that I was 
bound to produce the opening lines. I asked the messenger which gentlemen were present, and 
he gave me their names. They were all the type of men to put me on my mettle; but it was 
Kinto's presence among them that made me most reluctant to give a commonplace answer. I 
felt very alone and wished that I could show the note to Her Majesty and discuss my 
predicament; but I knew that she was lying down with the Emperor. 

The man from the Office of Grounds urged me to hurry; and I realized that if, in addition to 
bungling my reply, I was slow about it, I should really disgrace myself. "It can't be helped," I 
thought and, trembling with emotion, wrote the following lines: 

As though pretending to be blooms 

The snow flakes scatter in the wintry sky. [2921 

I handed my poem to the messenger and anxiously wondered how Kinto and the others would 
receive it. If their verdict was unfavourable I would rather not hear it, I thought as I eagerly 
awaited the news. 

It turned out that the Captain of the Middle Palace Guards (who at that time held the rank of 
Middle Captain in the Inner Palace Guards) was present when my answer arrived, and he told 
me that Toshikata, the Imperial Adviser, [2931 gave the following judgement: "After this she 
deserves to be appointed to the Palace Attendants' Office." 

72. Masahiro Really Is a Laughing-Stock 

Masahiro really is a laughing-stock. I wonder what it is like for his parents and friends. If people 
see him with a decent-looking servant, they always call for the fellow and laughingly ask how he 
can wait upon such a master and what he thinks of him. There are skilled dyers and weavers in 
Masahiro's household, and when it comes to dress, whether it be the colour of his under-robe 
or the style of his cloak, he is more elegant than most men; yet the only effect of his elegance is 
to make people say, "What a shame someone else isn't wearing these things!" 

And how strangely he expresses himself! Once, when he was due to report for night duty at the 
Palace, he ordered that the clothes and other things he would need should be brought from his 
house. "Send two servants," he said. One man came and said that he could easily carry 
everything. "You're an odd fellow," said Masahiro. "How can one man bring the things of two 
people? After all, can you put two measures in a one-measure jar? [2941 No one had the slightest 
idea what he meant; but there was loud laughter. 

On another occasion a messenger brought Masahiro a letter from someone, asking for an 
immediate reply. "You hateful fellow!" said Masahiro. "Has someone been putting peas on the 
stove? [2951 And who's stolen the ink and brush I had in this residence? Very odd 11 could 
understand people taking rice or wine..." And again everyone laughed. 

When the Empress Dowager was ill, Masahiro was sent from the Palace to inquire after her. 
When he came back, people asked which of her gentlemen-in-waiting had been present. He 
named a few people, four or five in all. "Was no one else there?" "Well, there were some 
others," replied Masahiro, "but they had all left." 

It is amazing that we could still laugh at him—so accustomed were we to hearing his 

One day when I was alone he came up to me and said, "My dear lady, I have something I must 
tell you at once - something that I've just heard." "And what may that be?" I asked. He 
approached my curtain. "I heard someone who instead of saying, "Bring your body closer," 
used the phrase, "Bring up your five parts." [2961 And again I burst into laughter. 

On the middle night during the period of official appointments Masahiro was responsible for 
filling the lamps with oil. He rested his foot on the cloth under the pedestal of one of the lamps 
and, since the cloth happened to have been freshly oiled, his foot stuck to it. As soon as he 
started to walk off, the lamp fell over and, as he hurried along with the cloth stuck to his foot, 
the lamp dragged after him, making a terrible clatter. 

One day when he thought he was alone in the Table Room, neither of the First Secretaries 
having reported for duty, Masahiro took a dish of beans that was lying there and went behind 
the Little Screen. [29?1 Suddenly someone pulled aside the screen and there was Masahiro, 
stealthily munching away at the beans. Everyone who saw him was convulsed with laughter. 

73. On the Last Day of the Fourth Month 

On the last day of the Fourth Month we made a pilgrimage to Hase Temple by way of Yodo 
Ferry. [2981 Our carriage was put on the ferry, and as we crossed the river I observed the iris, 
water Oats, and other plants that grew out of the water. They looked quite short; but, when we 
told our attendants to pluck some of them, I discovered that they had extremely long stems. I 
enjoyed watching the passing boats laden with water-oats, [2991 and it occurred to me that this 
was the sort of scene described in the song of Takase Pool. [300] 

When we returned on the third of the following month, it was raining heavily. We saw men and 
children setting out to pick irises; [301] they wore tiny sedge hats and their clothes were tucked 
up high on their legs. It was just like a screen painting. 

74. Things That Look Worse in Paintings 

Pinks, cherry blossoms, yellow roses. Men or women who are praised in romances as being 

75. Things That Look Better in Paintings 

Pines. Autumn fields. Mountain villages and paths. Cranes and deer. A very cold winter scene; 
an unspeakably hot summer scene. 

76. During the Long Rains in the Fifth Month 

During the long rains in the Fifth Month, there is something very moving about a place with a 
pond. Between the dense irises, water-Oats, and other plants one can see the green of the 

water; and the entire garden seems to be the same green colour. One stays there all day long, 
gazing in contemplation at the clouded sky - oh, how moving it is! 

I am always moved and delighted by places that have ponds - not only in the winter (when I 
love waking up to find that the water has frozen over) but at every time of the year. The ponds I 
like best are not those in which everything is carefully laid out; I much prefer one that has been 
left to itself so that it is wild and covered with weeds. At night in the green spaces of water one 
can see nothing but the pale glow of the moonlight. At any time and in any place I find 
moonlight very moving. 

77. In the First Month When I Go to a Temple 

In the First Month when I go to a temple for a retreat I like the weather to be extremely cold; 
there should be snow on the ground, and everything should be frozen. If it looks like rain, 
however, I feel most dissatisfied. 

Once I went on a pilgrimage to Flase Temple. While our rooms were being prepared, our 
carriage was pulled up to the foot of the log steps that lead to the temple. Young priests, 
wearing only their sashes and under-robes, and with those things called high clogs on their feet, 
[302] were h urr yjng up and down the steps without the slightest precaution, reciting verses from 
the Sacred Storehouse 13031 or such scraps from the sutras as came into their heads. It was very 
appropriate to the place, and I found it charming. Later, when we started to climb the steps, we 
were terrified and kept close to the side, clinging to the banisters. I was amused to see that the 
priests walked as freely as on an ordinary wooden floor. 

Presently a priest told us that our rooms were ready and asked us to go to them directly; he 
brought us some overshoes and helped us out of our carriage. Among the pilgrims who had 
already arrived I saw some who were wearing their clothes inside out, 13041 while others were 
dressed in formal style with trains on their skirts and Chinese jackets. The sight of so many 
people shuffling along the corridors in lacquered leather shoes and short clogs was delightful 
and reminded me of the Palace. 

Several acolytes and some young men who had the run of the temple grounds and buildings 
followed us, saying, "There's a drop now," "Here the corridor goes up," and so on. Close behind 
us came another group (I have no idea who they were), and they tried to push their way ahead 
of us. "Wait a moment," our guides said. "These are ladies of quality. You people must keep 
your distance." Some bowed and fell back; but others paid no attention at all and hurried 
ahead, each determined to be the first before the Buddha. 

On the way to our rooms we had to pass in front of rows of strangers. I found this very 
unpleasant; but, when I reached the chapel and got a view past the dog-barrier 13051 and right up 
to the sanctuary, I was overcome with awe and wondered how I could have stayed away for so 
many months. My old feelings were aroused and they overwhelmed all else. 

The lamps that lit the sacred image in the sanctuary were not permanent ones, but had been 
brought by pilgrims as offerings. They burnt with terrifying brightness, and in their light the 
Buddha glittered brilliantly. Priest after priest reverently entered the sanctuary, and, kneeling 
on the platform of worship, [3061 held up his petition in both hands and read it aloud. So many 
people were bustling about that it was hard to make out what any particular priest was saying; 
but occasionally I could distinguish a strained voice pronouncing some phrase like "One 
thousand platforms 13071 on behalf of Lord So-and-so". 

I was kneeling down to pray, with the sash of my skirt hanging loosely over my shoulders, 13081 
when a priest came up to me and said, "I have brought you this." He was carrying a bough of 
anise, and I was delighted by the gesture. 

Presently another priest came from the dog-barrier. He told us that he had satisfactorily recited 
all our petitions and asked how long we expected to remain in retreat; he also gave us the 
names of some other people who were staying in the temple. When he had gone, the 
attendants brought us a brazier and some fruit. Our washing-water was poured into a bucket, 
and I noticed that we had been given a basin without handles. A priest called for our servants 
and explained where they would be lodged; then, one at a time, the servants went off to their 

Now the bell rang for the recitation of the sutras. It was very comforting to think that it rang for 
me. In the cell next to ours a solitary gentleman was prostrating himself in prayer. At first I 
thought that he might be doing it because he knew we were listening; but soon I realized that 
he was absorbed in his devotions, which he continued hour after hour. I was greatly moved. 
When he rested from his prayers, he started reading the sutras in a voice that was no less 
impressive for being somewhat inaudible. I was wishing that he would read more loudly so that 
I might hear every word; but instead he stopped and blew his nose—not in a noisy, unpleasant 
way but gently and discreetly. I wondered what he could be praying for so fervently and hoped 
that his wish might be granted. 13091 

Usually when we stayed in temples the days passed rather quietly. The male attendants and 
boys who accompanied us would spend a good deal of time visiting the priests in their cells, and 
we were left with very little to do. Then the stillness of the day would be broken by the loud 
noise of the conch-shell. 13101 Or a messenger would arrive with an elegantly folded letter and 
offerings to pay for a recitation of the sutras; laying everything down, he would call for the 
acolytes in a voice so powerful that it echoed among the hills. Sometimes the booming of the 
temple bell became louder and louder until I was overcome with curiosity about who had asked 
for the readings. Then someone would mention the name of a great family, adding, "It is a 
service of instruction and guidance 13111 for Her Ladyship's safe delivery." An anxious period 
indeed, I thought, and would begin praying for the lady's well-being. 

All this happened at an ordinary time, when life in the temple was fairly peaceful. In the First 
Month things are in an uproar. People are constantly arriving with their requests, and as I 
watch them I sometimes forget all about my own devotions. 

One day at sunset a large party came to the temple, evidently intending to stay for a retreat. 
The acolytes bustled about efficiently, installing tall screens (which looked so heavy that I 
should not have thought they could possibly carry them) and flopping straw mats noisily on the 
floor. The visitors were taken directly to their quarters, and soon I heard a loud rustling sound 
as a blind was hung over the dog-barrier to separate their rooms from the sanctuary. All the 
arrangements were carried out in a most effortless fashion: the acolytes were used to their job. 

Presently I heard another rustling sound - this time of silk. It came from a large group of elderly 
ladies, discreet in manner and distinguished in appearance, who were apparently leaving their 
quarters and returning home. "Be careful about fire," I heard one of them say. "These rooms 
are very dangerous." Among their party was a boy of about seven who called for the attendants 
and spoke to them in a proud, charming voice 13121 that I found very attractive. There was also an 
adorable child, about two years old, who was coughing drowsily. I wished that the mother or 
someone else would address its nurse by name so that I might find out who these people were. 

The service continued all night, and it was so noisy that I could not get to sleep. After the 
matins 13131 1 finally dozed off, only to be woken by a reading of the sutra consecrated to the 
temple Buddha. The priests were reciting loudly and raucously, without making any effort to 
sound solemn. From their tone I gathered that they were travelling monks and, as I listened to 
their voices, which had awakened me so abruptly, I found myself being strangely moved. 

I also remember a pleasant-looking young gentleman, evidently from a good family, who did 
not stay in his cell at night and performed all his devotions during the daytime. Fie was 
attractively dressed in wide, bluish-grey trousers and many layers of white robes. Several pages 
had accompanied him on his pilgrimage, and I enjoyed watching how respectfully they attended 
him. They had provided their master with a special screen, behind which he occasionally 
prostrated himself in prayer. 

When staying at temples, I enjoy wondering who the strangers are; and it is also pleasant to 
recognize people one knows. 

The young men who visited the temple were apt to wander near the women's quarters and 
spend more time looking in that direction than at the Buddha. Sometimes they would call for 
one of the sextons and, after a whispered consultation, set off for some other part of the 
temple. I saw nothing wrong in their behaviour. 

At the end of the Second and beginning of the Third Months, when the cherry blossoms were in 
bloom, I made another pleasant retreat to the temple. Two or three good-looking gentlemen, 
apparently travelling incognito, arrived while I was there. They were elegantly dressed in 
cherry-blossom and willow robes, and they looked very distinguished with the ends of their 

laced trousers neatly tucked up and fastened. They were accompanied by a very proper-looking 
attendant, who held an attractively decorated bag of provisions. Their page-boys, who carried 
flowering branches of cherry blossom, wore hunting costumes of plum red and bright green, 
with varicoloured under-robes and skirts printed with scattered patches of colour. Also in their 
party was a slender retainer, who looked extremely attractive as he beat the gong at the 
entrance to the temple. I recognized one of the gentlemen. Of course he had no way of 
knowing that I was at the temple, and he did not notice me as he passed near where I stood. 
Though I had no particular desire to meet him, this rather saddened me. "If only I could let him 
know!" I thought, and found my feelings somewhat strange. 

Whenever I go to stay in a temple, or indeed in any new place, it seems pointless to be 
accompanied only by servants. One needs a few companions of one's own class with whom one 
can chat congenially. There may be some suitable women even among one's maids; the trouble 
is that one knows all too well what they are going to say. Gentlemen appear to have the same 
idea; for I notice that whenever they go on a pilgrimage they take along a few agreeable 

78. Things That Give a Hot Feeling 

The hunting costume of the head of a Guards escort. 

A patchwork surplice. 

The Captain in attendance at the Imperial Games. [3141 
An extremely fat person with a lot of hair. 

A zither bag. 

A Holy Teacher performing a rite of incantation at noon in the Sixth or Seventh Month. Or at 
the same time of the year a copper-smith working in his foundry. 

79. Shameful Things 

A thief has crept into a house and is now hiding in some well-chosen nook where he can 
secretly observe what is going on. Someone else comes into the dark room and, taking an 
object that lies there, slips it into his sleeve. It must be amusing for the thief to see a person 
who shares his own nature. 13151 

Priests on night duty are often confronted with shameful things, especially if they are light 
sleepers. 13161 For they are liable to overhear groups of young women joking about other people, 
abusing them, and venting their spite on them; all this is bound to arouse a sense of shame in 
the priest who lies next door, hearing everything they say. Some of the Emperor's elderly ladies 

in-waiting angrily tell the girls not to be so noisy; but they pay no attention and continue 
gossiping until finally they doze off without the slightest regard for decorum. Even after they 
are asleep, the priest still feels it is shameful. 

A man's heart is a shameful thing. When he is with a woman whom he finds tiresome and 
distasteful, he does not show that he dislikes her, but makes her believe she can count on him. 
Still worse, a man who has the reputation of being kind and loving treats a woman in such a 
way that she cannot imagine his feelings are anything but sincere. Yet he is untrue to her not 
only in his thoughts but in his words; for he speaks badly about her to other women just as he 
speaks badly about those women to her. The woman, of course, has no idea that she is being 
maligned; and, hearing his criticisms of the others, she fondly believes he loves her best. The 
man for his part is well aware that this is what she thinks. How shameful! 

When a woman runs into a lover with whom (alas!) she has broken for good, there is no reason 
for her to be ashamed if he regards her as heartless. But if the lover shows that he has not been 
even slightly upset by their parting, which to her was so sad and painful and difficult, she is 
bound to be amazed by the man and to wonder what sort of a heart he can have. Oblivious of 
his own callous attitude, her abandoned lover carried on a glib conversation in which he 
criticizes the behaviour of other men. 

How shameful when a man seduces some helpless Court lady and, having made her pregnant, 
abandons her without caring in the slightest about her future! 

80. Things That Have Lost Their Power 
A large boat which is high and dry in a creek at ebb-tide. 

A woman who has taken off her false locks to comb the short hair that remains. 

A large tree that has been blown down in a gale and lies on its side with its roots in the air. 
The retreating figure of a sumo wrestler who has been defeated in a match. [3171 
A man of no importance reprimanding an attendant. 

An old man who removes his hat, uncovering his scanty top knot. 

A woman, who is angry with her husband about some trifling matter, leaves home and goes 
somewhere to hide. She is certain that he will rush about looking for her; but he does nothing 
of the kind and shows the most infuriating indifference. Since she cannot stay away for ever, 
she swallows her pride and returns. 

81. Awkward Things 

One has gone to a house and asked to see someone; but the wrong person appears, thinking 
that it is he who is wanted; this is especially awkward if one has brought a present. 

One has allowed oneself to speak badly about someone without really intending to do so; a 
young child who has overheard it all goes and repeats what one has said in front of the person 
in question. 

Someone sobs out a pathetic story. One is deeply moved; but it so happens that not a single 
tear comes to one's eyes—most awkward. Though one makes one's face look as if one is going 
to cry, it is no use: not a single tear will come. Yet there are times when, having heard 
something happy, one feels the tears streaming out. 

82. When the Emperor Returned from His Visit to Yawata 

When the Emperor returned from his visit to Yawata, he halted his palanquin before reaching 
the Empress Dowager's gallery and sent a messenger to pay his respects. [3181 What could be 
more magnificent than to see so august a personage as His Majesty seated there in all his glory 
and honouring his mother in this way? At the sight tears came to my eyes and streamed down 
my face, ruining my make-up. How ugly I must have looked. 

It was also very impressive to see the Imperial Adviser, Captain Tadanobu, who had been 
chosen as Imperial messenger. He proceeded to the gallery on horseback, accompanied by four 
escorts on foot, all magnificently attired, and by some mounted escorts who were elegantly 
slender. Spurring his horse, he trotted along the wide, clear expanse of the Second Avenue. [3191 
Then, dismounting at a short distance from the gallery, he waited by the bamboo blinds at the 
side, where the Master of the Empress Dowager's Household came for the message. Having 
received the reply, Tadanobu remounted and, once more spurring his horse, returned to the 
Emperor. What a magnificent sight when he stood by the Imperial palanquin making his report! 

I imagined the Empress Dowager's feelings as she watched her son, passing with his retinue. My 
heart leapt with joy, and tears came to my eyes - much to the amusement of the people who 
were watching me. Even common people are delighted if things go well for their children; when 
one imagines what the Empress Dowager must have felt, it is really awe-inspiring. 

83. One Day We Heard That His Excellency 

One day we heard that His Excellency, the Chancellor, was going to appear at the Black Door 
and we all gathered in the corridor to watch him. Presently he emerged and, making his way 
through our group, remarked, "Oh, what an impressive collection of ladies! It must make you 
laugh to see the foolish old man." 13201 

The women next to the door raised the bamboo blinds, and one could see the varied colours of 
their many-layered robes at the openings of their sleeves. Korechika, the Provisional Major 

Counsellor, helped his father on with his shoes. The Major Counsellor was a handsome, 
impressive figure as he stood in the narrow corridor, beautifully dressed with his long train pro 
truding from beneath his under-robe. "Imagine having one's shoes 13211 picked up by a Major 
Counsellor!" I thought. "The Chancellor is indeed the grandest of them all." 

Seated in a row were Yamanoi, the Major Counsellor, his younger brothers, and some other 
gentlemen; their robes made a sea of black all the way from the wall of Fujitsubo Palace to the 
front of Toka Palace. The Chancellor, looking extremely slender and elegant, stopped for a 
moment to adjust his sword. Meanwhile His Excellency the Senior Steward, Fujiwara no 
Michinaga, was standing in front of Seiryo Palace. It occurred to me that he would probably not 
make obeisance to his own brother; but I was mistaken, for when the Chancellor advanced a 
few steps Michinaga knelt down in a most respectful attitude. It was a splendid moment, and I 
wondered what merit the Chancellor could have accumulated to deserve such glory in this life. 

Lady Chunagon, having announced that it was a day of abstinence, recited her prayers in an 
exemplary fashion. "Let us have your rosary for a moment," said one of the ladies, adding, "Do 
you suppose those prayers of yours are going to put you in the same class as His Excellency?" 
She and the others then gathered round Lady Chunagon, laughing loudly; but their jokes did 
nothing to detract from the Chancellor's splendour. When we mentioned this to the Empress, 
she smiled and said, "To become a Buddha is better still." 13221 Once again I was over come with 
admiration for my mistress. 

I frequently told Her Majesty about the way in which Michinaga had made obeisance. "So he's 
still your favourite!" she said with a smile. If the Empress had lived to see how brilliantly 
Michinaga advanced in later years, 13231 she would have under stood still better why I was so 
impressed by the scene. 

84. I Remember a Clear Morning 

I remember a clear morning in the Ninth Month when it had been raining all night. Despite the 
bright sun, dew was still dripping from the chrysanthemums in the garden. On the bamboo 
fences and criss-cross hedges I saw tatters of spider webs; and where the threads were broken 
the raindrops hung on them like strings of white pearls. I was greatly moved and delighted. 

As it became sunnier, the dew gradually vanished from the clover and the other plants where it 
had lain so heavily; the branches began to stir, then suddenly sprang up of their own accord. 
Later I described to people how beautiful it all was. What most impressed me was that they 
were not at all impressed. 

85. On the Sixth of the Month 

On the sixth of the month people come in throngs carrying young herbs for the festival on the 
following day. [3241 One year, when some children were spreading out the herbs, I asked them to 
tell me the name of a particular plant that I had never seen before. It took them a long time to 
answer. "Come on," I said. "What is it called?" The children looked at each other and one of 

them replied, "It's called miminagusa ("earless plant") [325] ." "That stands to reason," I said with 
a laugh. "It certainly doesn't look as if it could hear anything." The children had also brought 
some pretty chrysanthemums, and the following poem occurred to me: 

Pluck them or pinch them as you may. 

Indifferent they remain. 

These earless plants who hear not what I say. 

Yet, since there are so many blossoms here. 

Surely some chrysanthemums must hear. 13261 

I should have liked to recite the lines to them, but, being children, they would not have 

86. One Day a Man from the Office of Grounds 

One day a man from the Office of Grounds brought me a packet wrapped in white paper and 
decorated with a magnificent branch of plum blossom. He said that it was from Yukinari, the 
Controller First Secretary. I eagerly examined the parcel; it looked as if it contained a painting, 
but instead I found a couple of the objects known as square cakes 13271 packed next to each 
other. I also found a twisted letter written in the style of a Submission 13281 : 

A Presentation: 

One packet of Square Cakes, 

The aforesaid packer being herewith respectfully presented 
in accordance with established precedent 
To Madam Shonagon. 

Below this came the date and the signature, Mimana no Nariyuki, 13291 and at the end: "Your 
humble servant would have liked to present this in person but, fearing lest he be too ill 
favoured to show himself by daylight, he has forborne from coming." 13301 

It was most elegantly written, and I showed it to Her Majesty. "What a beautiful hand I" 13311 she 
said, taking the letter. "And what an amusing idea!" 

"But how shall I reply?" I asked. "Should I reward the messenger? If only someone could tell 

"I hear Korenaka's voice," said Her Majesty. "Call him and ask what to do." I went out to the 
veranda and ordered a servant to tell the Major Controller of the Left that I had something to 
say to him. Presently he appeared, having arranged his clothing very carefully. "I have not called 
you on behalf of Her Majesty," I said, "but for a personal matter. If a servant brings this sort of 
parcel to someone like Lady Ben [3321 or me, should he be given a reward?" 

"No," replied Korenaka, "one should simply eat the cakes. But why do you ask. Madam? Has 
some member of the Great Council sent you this?" 

"How could you suppose such a thing?" I said. 

Then, by way of reply to Yukinari, I took a piece of thin, bright red paper and simply wrote, "The 
servant who would not present the cold cakes in person strikes me as being very cold himself." 
[3331 1 attached my note to a magnificent branch of red plum blossom and dispatched it. 

Almost immediately Yukinari arrived and sent in the message, "Your servant humbly presents 
himself." When I went out to meet him, he said, "I was sure that when you received my parcel 
you would send me a poem. What a splendid answer you produced instead! Women who are 
pleased with themselves never miss an opportunity to scatter their poems in all directions. I am 
delighted to be on friendly terms with someone who is different. I should get little pleasure 
from a woman who was always turning out poems. In fact I should consider that she was being 
in considerate." 

Later I heard that Yukinari had told the story to the Chancellor in the presence of a large group 
of courtiers. "People like Norimitsu and Nariyasu 13341 are delighted with her note," Yukinari had 
said. Hearing this, the Chancellor had strongly commended my reply... But it is most 
unattractive to blow my own trumpet like this. 

87. One Night the Empress's Ladies-in-Waiting 

One night the Empress's ladies-in-waiting were engaged in a heated discussion. "When they are 
making batons for the new Chamberlains of the Sixth Rank," said one of them, "why do they 
use wood from the planks at the south-east corner of the Empress's Office? [3351 Surely they 
could just as well take it from the east or west sides of the building. Or, for that matter, why not 
use wood from the south-east corner to make batons for Chamberlains of the Fifth Rank?" 

"I see nothing very interesting in that," said another of the ladies. "It is the names given to 
different types of clothing that I find strange. They often seem to have been chosen at random. 

I can see why the name "thin and long should have been given to long robes. [3361 But why 
"sweat garment" for women's loose coats? Surely they should be called "long train" like the 
robes worn by boys. And why "Chinese robe"? The proper name would be "short robe". I 

suppose they call it that because it's worn by the Chinese. "Over-robe", "over-trousers", and 
"under-robe" all make sense. And so does "big mouth" since the opening of the trousers is 
greater than the length. But the name hakama for trouser-skirt is pointless. And why 
"insertions" for laced trousers? They should be known as "leg clothes", "leg bags", or 
something of the sort." [3371 

"Well, well," I said, "what a noise you're making! I myself have nothing to add on the subject 
and I wish you'd all go to sleep." As if in reply to my words came the peevish voice of the priest 
on night duty: "That would be a great shame," he said, much to our surprise and amusement. 
"Do please continue talking all night." 

88. On the Tenth Day of Each Month [338] 

On the tenth day of each month the Empress ordered that Dedications of Sutras and of Images 
be made on behalf of the late Chancellor. In the Ninth Month the service was held in the 
Empress's Office with many Court Nobles and senior courtiers in attendance. Seihan was the 
preacher, and his sermon was so sad that everyone wept, including the young people, who as a 
rule are not very sensitive to the pathos of things. [3391 

When it was finished, the gentlemen drank wine and recited Chinese poems. Captain Tadanobu 
quoted the lines. 

Where is he now 

When moon and autumn have returned at the appointed time? [3401 

It was splendid, and I wondered how he could have thought of such an appropriate passage. I 
made my way through the crowd of ladies to where the Empress was standing, and found that 
she was on the point of leaving. "Wasn't he magnificent?" she said. "Those lines were just right 
for the occasion." "Yes, Your Majesty," I said, "I wanted to tell you about it, so I had a quick 
glance at the ceremony and then came to look for you. The more I think about his quotation, 
the more impressed I am." 

"Indeed," said Her Majesty, "I can see why you would be more impressed than anyone." [341] 

One day Tadanobu sent someone especially to ask for me, but I did not go. Later when we met 
by accident he said, "Why do you refuse to be on close terms with me? It is very strange, for I 
know you do not dislike me. Surely a friendship that has lasted all this time cannot end so 
coldly. At present I can visit you here whenever I want, but the time may come when that will 
be impossible and then what will there be to show for our relation ship?" 

"Indeed," I replied, "it would not be difficult for us to come together. But, if we did, I could no 
longer go on praising you, and that would be a great shame. As things are, when I am in Her 
Majesty's presence with all the other ladies gathered about, I am forever singing your praises as 

though it were my function in life. But, if we did as you want, how could that continue? Then it 
would go against my conscience to say anything nice about you. So please just think of me 
fondly and don't take things any further." 

"How so?" he said, laughing. "There are many people on intimate terms who praise each other 
far more than mere acquaintances ever do." 

"If I did not find that sort of thing so distasteful," I replied, "I should certainly accept your 
proposal. But I can't stand men or women who praise their lovers and who get angry if 
someone says the slightest thing against them." 

"That doesn't make you sound very dependable," said Tada nobu, which amused me greatly. 

[ 342 ] 

89. One Evening Yukinari, the Controller First Secretary 

One evening Yukinari, the Controller First Secretary, came to the Empress's Office and stayed 
there talking until late at night. 

"Tomorrow is a day of Imperial Abstinence," he said as he left, "and I have to remain in the 
Palace. I must certainly go home before the Hour of the Ox." 13431 

On the following morning a messenger brought me several sheets of Koya paper of the type the 
Chamberlains use in the Emperor's Private Office. "Today," I read, "my heart is full of memories 
of our meeting. I had hoped that I might stay until the morning telling you of bygone tales, but 
the cock's crow forced me to take my leave..." 13441 It was a long letter, very elegantly written 
and contrived to give an impression that was quite contrary to the truth. 13451 1 was much 
impressed and replied, "Can the cock's crow that we heard so late at night be that which saved 
the Lord of Meng-chang?" 13461 Yukinari answered, "It is said that the cock's crow opened the 
barrier of Han Ku and allowed the Lord of Meng-chang to escape in the nick of time with his 
three thousand followers. 13471 But we are concerned with a far less distant barrier—the Barrier 
of Osaka ("Slope of Meetings"). I then sent him this poem: 

There may be some who are deceived 

By the cock's crow that falsely breaks 

The stillness of the night. 

But such a fraud will not beguile 

The Barrier of Osaka, 

Where lovers have their trysts. 

And as a postscript: "I am told that the gate-keeper is a very shrewd man." 

Yukinari promptly replied: 

I have heard it said 

That Osaka's Barrier can be freely crossed. 

No need here for the cock to crow: 

This gate is ever opened wide. 

And waits each wanderer who comes. [3481 

Bishop Ryuen was much impressed by this exchange. Bowing deeply, he took the first of the 
letters and brought it to the Empress; later he showed her all the others also. 

When I met Yukinari a little later, he laughed and said, "I am sorry that my poem was too much 
for you and that in the end you never answered. By the way, all the senior courtiers have seen 
your letters." 

"Well then," I replied, "you must have a very high opinion of me. If one has been impressed by 
a letter one finds it a shame not to let other people see it. Since your letters, on the other hand, 
were rather poor, I hid them carefully and didn't let anyone get a glimpse. So our intentions 
were equally good." 

Yukinari laughed. "You really have an unusual way of thinking things out before you speak," he 
said. "Most women would have answered with something like, "I did not like your letters. They 
are too shallow." 

"Far from resenting that comment," I said, "I am most grateful for it." 

"Well," said Yukinari, "it's a good thing you've hidden my letters. It would have been very sad 
and painful for me if you had shown them to anyone. Please go on hiding them in future." 

Not long afterwards I met Captain Tsunafusa. "Did you know that Yukinari has been singing 
your praises?" he said. "He told me about the conversation after your exchange of letters the 
other day. It is a great pleasure to hear people praising a woman one loves." 

I was delighted by his sincere manner and said, "So now I have two things to make me happy: 
first being praised by Yukinari and secondly being included among those you love." 

"That's strange," Tsunafusa said. "You speak as though it were something new." 

90. On a Dark, Moonless Night in the Fifth Month 

On a dark, moonless night in the Fifth Month we heard several voices saying, "Are any of the 
ladies-in-waiting here?" 

"What an odd way to speak!" said the Empress. "Go and see who it is." 

I went on to the veranda and asked, "Who is there with that loud, ringing voice?" 

By way of reply, someone raised the blind and gently thrust in an object, which turned out to be 
a branch of narrow-leaved bamboo. 

"Oh," I said, "so it's this gentleman!" [3491 

"Come," said one of the people who had brought the branch, "let's go and report this to the 
Palace." And off they went - the Middle Captain, [3501 the new Middle Captain, the Sixth Rank 
Chamberlain, and the others in the group. Yukinari, the Controller First Secretary, stayed 
behind. "How oddly they behave!" he said, looking at them as they left. "We were picking 
bamboo branches in front of Seiryo Palace and were intending to write a few poems when 
someone suggested that we might go to the Empress's Office and invite the ladies-in-waiting to 
join in. You didn't take long to show them you knew what they meant by the bamboo, and they 
left in a hurry. Most amusing! I wonder where you heard that story. It isn't something most 
people would recognize." 

"I had no idea that "gentleman" was a name for bamboo," I said. "I must have made rather a 
poor impression." [3511 

"To be sure," said Yukinari. "It's not something one could be expected to know." 

While we were deep in our conversation, the men returned, reciting the verse, "He called it 
"this gentleman"." [3521 

"And what about the poems you intended to write?" Yukinari asked the men. "I find it very 
strange that you should come back without them." 

"But how could we possibly find an adequate reply? It's better to make no answer at all than an 
unsatisfactory one. In any case the story is already being noised about the Palace. His Majesty 
has heard it and he is delighted." 

They recited the passage over and over again, with Yukinari joining in. It was a delightful scene 
and many of the ladies-in waiting came out to have a look. After a few minutes of conversa tion 
the gentlemen said they had to return to the Palace. As they left they continued reciting in 
chorus the line about the bamboo, and one could hear their voices until they reached the guard 
house of the Left Division. 

Very early on the following morning Lady Shonagon no Myobu arrived with a letter from the 
Emperor reporting the story to Her Majesty. The Empress sent for me in her room and asked if 
the report was correct. "I do not know," I replied. "I said it without thinking. Perhaps Lord 
Yukinari arranged it all to my advantage." 

"Well, even if he did," said Her Majesty, smiling, "you still came out of it pretty well." 

The Empress is always delighted when she hears that one of us has been praised by the 
courtiers, and she congratulates the fortunate woman in a most charming way. 

91. A Year after Emperor Enyu's Death 

A year after Emperor Enyu's death [353] people ceased to wear mourning. It was a most moving 
time. Everyone from His Majesty himself down to the late Emperor's attendants remembered 
how things had been when the poet wrote about the "flowery clothes". [3541 

One day when it was raining heavily a child, whose straw coat made him look like a basket 
worm, came to Tozammi's [3551 room and presented a formal letter attached to a large branch 
that had been peeled white. 

"Where does this come from?" said the maid. "Madam is observing abstinence both today and 
tomorrow. Her shutters are closed." Then, opening the upper part of the shutters, she took in 
the letter and brought it to her mistress. 

"It is a day of abstinence," said Tozammi, leaving the letter on top of the lattice. "I cannot 
possibly read it." 

On the following morning Tozammi washed her hands and asked her maid for the account of 
scrolls". [3561 Kneeling down, she took the strange-looking document and slowly opened it. The 
handwriting, which was traced on heavy, nut-brown paper, was very weak, as though done by 
some old priest: 

Here we keep our sombre, oak-dyed clothes 

In memory of him who died. 

But in the capital no doubt 

The clothes are changed to brighter hues. [3571 

Tozammi was extremely shocked and wondered who could have sent it. The Archbishop of 
Niwa [3581 occurred to her as a possibility, yet surely he could not have written such a letter. So 
who was responsible? It must be the Fujiwara Major Counsellor, since he was Director of the 
late Emperor's household. She would have liked to let Their Majesties know about it at once; 
but the Masters of Divination had told her that she must be extremely prudent during the 
period of abstinence and she restrained her impatience until the two days had passed. On the 
following morning she wrote her answer to the poem and sent it to the residence of the 
Fujiwara Major Counsellor, whence a further poem came in reply. 

Tozammi now hurried off to the Empress, taking along the two letters she had received. On 
arrival she explained what had happened, and the Emperor, who was in the room at the time, 
heard everything. Her Majesty glanced indifferently at the letters. "This doesn't look like the 

writing of the Fujiwara Major Counsellor," she said. "It must be from some priest." "But who?" 
said Tozammi. "Who among the high nobility or clergy would do such a thing? Can it be Lord So- 
and-so? Or perhaps it's Bishop So-and-so." 

Seeing Tozammi so perplexed and curious, the Emperor smiled and said, "Your letter reminds 
me of something I've seen here." Opening a small cupboard, [359] he took out still another letter. 

"Oh dear. Do tell me what this is all about," said Tozammi insistently. "My head is aching. I 
really must know." She gave a bitter laugh. 

Finally the Emperor spoke. "The demon-child who brought you the letter happens to work as an 
assistant for one of the ser vants in our kitchen. But I think it may have been Lady Kohyoe who 
plotted the whole thing." [3601 

Now Her Majesty burst out laughing. "Oh! exclaimed Tozammi, tugging at the sleeve of the 
Empress's robe and shaking it. "How could Your Majesty have played such a trick on me? I 
never suspected anything like that. Before even opening the letter, I specially washed my hands 
and knelt down." Tozammi laughed and I was delighted by the proud, angry look on her face. 
There was also loud laughter in the kitchen when the servants heard what had happened. 

Returning to her own apartments, Tozammi sent for the child from the Imperial kitchen and 
showed him to her maid who had originally taken the letter. "Yes, that's the boy," said the 
maid. "Who wrote the letter, child, and who handed it to you?" The boy gave a foolish laugh 
and ran away without a word. 

Later the Fujiwara Major Counsellor was told the story and chuckled with delight. 

92. Things Without Merit 

An ugly person with a bad character. 

Rice starch that has become mixed with water... I know that this is a very vulgar item and 
everyone will dislike my mentioning it. But that should not stop me. In fact I must feel free to 
include anything, even tongs used for the parting-fires. [3611 After all, these objects do exist in 
our world and people all know about them. I admit they do not belong to a list that others will 
see. But I never thought that these notes would be read by anyone else, and so I included 
everything that came into my head, however strange or unpleasant. [3621 

93. Outstandingly Splendid Things 

What can possibly equal the ceremonies performed in His Majesty's presence on the occasion 
of the Special Festivals? The rehearsal is also delightful... A bright sun shone in the peaceful 
spring sky, and in the garden in front of Seiryo Palace mats had been spread out by men of the 

Housekeeping Office. [3631 The Imperial messengers sat facing north, while the dancers faced the 
Emperor. (But perhaps my memory is mistaken on this point. [3641 ) Assistant Officials of the 
Emperor's Private Office placed little tables in front of each of the noblemen in attendance. 

One after another the guests took the bowl and, after holding it for a while poured some of the 
wine into a thing called a Yaku shell and drank. 

This was followed by the "gathering of remains". 13651 I find it bad enough to see men doing this, 
but now to my surprise a lot of women emerged from the fire-huts, [3661 which I had thought 
were empty, and began helping themselves to the left-overs in a most unsightly way. The 
women who roughly pushed themselves forward, determined to take as much as possible, 
actually got less than the ones who darted out nimbly and snatched the first things they could 
find. I was much amused to see how cleverly they used the little huts as store-rooms for their 

As soon as the men from the Housekeeping Office had removed the mats, some workers 
arrived from the Office of Grounds, each carrying a broom, and levelled off the sand in the 

On the day of the rehearsal even the musicians 13671 are allowed to come and go freely in His 
Majesty's presence. As they reached the front of Shokyo Palace, one could hear the sound of 
their flutes and of the wooden clappers beating time. I impatiently waited for them to arrive at 
Seiryo Palace. Presently they emerged by the side of the fence that surrounds the bamboo 
garden; they were singing Udo Beach 13681 to the strumming of their zithers, and, seeing them, I 
could hardly control my joy. Now two of the dancers ran forward to start the first dance. They 
stood facing the Emperor, with the sleeves of their robes joined in exactly the right way. The 
other dancers came out one by one, tapping their feet in time with the music. Having adjusted 
their costumes - the cords of their short-sleeved jackets, the collar of their over-robes, their 
head-dress, and the rest—they began dancing to the accompaniment of The Little Pines 13691 and 
other such songs. It was really splendid, and I could gladly have watched them all day as they 
danced, moving their wide sleeves like great wheels. I felt very sorry when they had finished 
but consoled myself with the thought that there was another dance to come. I was 
disappointed, however; for now the musicians walked off, carrying their zithers on their 
shoulders, and the per formers immediately danced behind the bamboos. They made a most 
elegant picture as they glided gracefully away, their cloaks removed from one shoulder to let 
the sleeve hang down and the long trains of their glossy silk under-robes stretching out in all 
directions and becoming entwined with each other... But I am afraid it all seems rather 
commonplace when put into words. 

Now they had gone, and I was left with the sad thought that there would be no more dancing 
that day. The High Court Nobles and others who had been watching also left, making me feel 
very forlorn and regretful. 

Things are different when the Special Festival is held at Kamo; for then one can look forward to 
the Sacred Dance of the Return. [3701 1 remember one such evening. As the smoke rose in 
slender wisps from the bonfires in the garden, I listened to the clear, delicate, charmingly 
tremulous sound of the flute that accompanied the sacred dances. The singing also moved me 
greatly. Delighted by the scene, I hardly noticed that the air was piercingly cold, that my robes 
of beaten silk were icy, and that the hand in which I held my fan was almost frozen. Afterwards 
the director summoned the dancers, and I enjoyed seeing how pleased he looked when they 
came running towards him. [371] 

When I am staying at home, I am not satisfied with simply watching the procession as it passes 
on its way back from the Shrine in the evening. Often I will go all the way to Kamo to see the 
dances. On arrival I tell my men to place the carriage under the great trees. The smoke of the 
pine torches trails along the ground; and by their light the cords of the dancers' jackets and the 
lustre of their silken robes look even more beautiful than in the daytime. 

It is delightful too when the dancers move in rhythm with the sacred songs, stamping their feet 
on the boards of the wooden bridge. The sound of running water blends with the music of the 
flute, and surely even the Gods must enjoy such a scene. [3721 

Among the dancers was a certain Captain in the Inner Palace Guards who performed every year 
on this occasion and who had always impressed me greatly. He had recently died, and I had 
heard that his spirit was haunting the first bridge at the upper shrine. I found the idea very 
frightening and did not think that I should be able to enjoy the dances fully. Yet, when the time 
came, I was totally absorbed by their beauty. 

"It is always so sad when the Special Festival at Iwashimizu comes to an end," remarked one of 
the ladies-in-waiting. "Why don't the dancers give a repeat performance after they return to 
the Palace? What a delight that would be! I find it such a shame to see the dancers leaving one 
after another as soon as they've received their rewards." 

Hearing this, the Emperor said that he would summon the dancers after they returned on the 
following day and order them to perform. "Will you really do that. Your Majesty?" said the lady. 
"Oh, how splendid!" The ladies-in-waiting were all de lighted with this decision, and they 
crowded round Her Majesty, begging her to make sure that the Emperor would not change his 

As a result we had the great pleasure of seeing the dancers give a special performance on their 
return from the Shrine. [3731 The ladies, however, had not really expected that the extra dance 
would really take place, and when they heard that the dancers had been summoned into the 
Presence they were not prepared. In their eagerness to reach the hall, they bumped into things 
and behaved in the most insane way; those who had been in their rooms when the news came 
rushed helter-skelter to the Palace and, not caring in the slightest that they could be seen by 
courtiers, attendants, and others whom they passed, lifted their skirts over their heads as they 
ran. [3741 No wonder that people laughed at them! 

94. When His Excellency, the Chancellor, Had Departed 

When His Excellency, the Chancellor, had departed from among us, there was much stir and 
movement in the world. [375) Her Majesty, who no longer came to the Imperial Palace, lived in 
the Smaller Palace of the Second Ward. [3761 Though I had done nothing to deserve it, things 
became very difficult for me and I spent a long time at home. One day, when I was particularly 
concerned about Her Majesty and felt I could not allow our separation to continue, the Captain 
of the Left Guards Division came to see me. "I called on Her Majesty today," he said, "and found 
it very moving. Her ladies were dressed as elegantly as ever, with their robes, skirts, and 
Chinese jackets perfectly matching the season. The blind was open at the side and, when I 
looked in, I saw a group of about eight ladies, elegantly seated next to each other. They wore 
Chinese jackets of tawny yellow, light violet skirts, and robes of purple and dark red. Noticing 
that the grass in the garden outside the palace had been allowed to grow very high and thick, I 
told them they should have it cut. "We've left it like this on purpose so that we might admire 
the dew when it settles on the blades." The voice was Lady Saisho's and I found her reply 

"Several of the ladies spoke about you and said it was a shame you were staying at home. "Now 
that Her Majesty is living in a place like this," they told me, "she feels that Shonagon should 
come back into waiting regardless of what business she may have at home. Why won't she 
return when Her Majesty wants her so much?" I definitely had the impression that they wanted 
me to pass this on to you. So please go. There's a charm about the place that will stir you 
deeply. The peonies in front of the terrace have a delightful Chinese air." 

"No," I replied. "Since they dislike me so much, I've come to dislike them." 

"You must try to be generous," he said with a smile. 

Shortly afterwards I visited the Empress. I had no way of telling what she thought about it all; 
but I did hear some of her ladies-in-waiting whisper, "She is on close terms with people who are 
attached to the Minister of the Left." [37?1 1 was coming from my room when I saw them all 
standing there muttering to each other. Noticing me, they became silent and each of them 
went about her own business. I was not used to being treated like this and found it most 
galling. Thereafter Her Majesty summoned me on several occasions, but I paid no attention, 
and a long time passed without my visiting her. No doubt the ladies in-waiting made out that I 
belonged to the enemy camp and told all sorts of lies about me. 

One day, when there had been an unaccustomed silence from the Empress and I was sitting at 
home sunk in gloomy thoughts, a housekeeper brought me a letter. "Her Majesty ordered that 
this should be sent to you secretly by Lady Sakyo," she told me. Yet there could be no reason 
for such secrecy when I was living at home. Examining the letter, I gathered that it was a 
personal message from Her Majesty and my heart was pounding as I opened it. There was 

nothing written on the paper. It had been used to wrap up a single petal of mountain rose, on 
which I read the words, "He who does not speak his love." [378] I was overjoyed; what a relief 
after the long, anxious days of silence! My eyes filled with the things that one knows first of all". 
[379] "The ladies in-waiting are all wondering why you have stayed away so long," said the 
housekeeper, who had been watching me. "They con sider it very strange, especially since you 
know how much Her Majesty is always thinking of you. Why don't you go?" Then she added, "I 
have a short errand near by. I'll be back for your answer presently." 

But as I prepared to write my answer, I realized that I had completely forgotten the next line of 
the poem. "Amazing!" I muttered. "How can one possibly forget an old poem like that? I know 
it perfectly well and yet it just won't come." Hearing this, a small page-boy who happened to be 
in the room said, "Yet feels its waters seething underneath"—those are the words Madam." Of 
course! How on earth could they have slipped my mind? To think that I should have to be 
taught by a mere child! 

Shortly after sending my reply, I visited the Empress. Not knowing how she would receive me, I 
felt unusually nervous and remained half hidden behind a curtain of state. "Are you a new 
comer here?" asked Her Majesty with a laugh. "I am afraid it was not much of a poem," she 
went on, "but I felt it was the sort of thing I should write. When I do not see you, Shonagon, I 
am wretched all the time." 

Her Majesty had not changed. When I told her about the page boy who had reminded me of 
the missing words, she was most amused. "That's just the sort of thing that can happen," she 
said, laughing, "especially with old poems that one considers too familiar to take seriously." 

Then she told me the following story: "Some people were organizing a game of riddles 13801 when 
one of them, a clever man and a good player, said that he would like to set the first riddle 
presented by the team of the left, to which he belonged. His team-mates cheerfully agreed, 
feeling confident that he would produce something good. 

"When all the people in the team of the left had made up their riddles, they began to select the 
ones that would actually be used." Please tell us what yours is going to be?" they said to the 
man. "No," he replied. "You must simply trust me. After speaking as I did, I am hardly likely to 
come out with something that will disappoint you." His team-mates assumed that he must be 
right; but, when the day of the game drew near, they again asked him to let them know his 
riddle. "What if you should have produced something very strange?" they said. "Well," he said 
angrily, "I don't know. If you are so uncertain about my riddle, you had better not depend on 
me at all." When the day arrived, his partners were very worried about what he would do. 

"The participants, men and women of quality including several senior courtiers, were divided 
into two teams and seated in rows. The time came to present the first set of riddles, and our 
man was chosen to lead off for the team of the left. He looked as if he had prepared his entry 
with great care, and all the players gazed at him anxiously, wondering what they would hear. 
"Your riddle! Your riddle!" they said impatiently. 

"Finally he came out with "A bow drawn in the sky", which delighted the members of the 
opposing team. His partners were dumbfounded and disgusted with him. Surely, they thought, 
he must be working for the other side and trying to make his own team lose. 

"Meanwhile his opponent on the team of the right was laughing at him. "Dear me!" he said, 
beginning to pout. "I haven't the slightest idea." And, instead of answering the riddle, he began 
making jokes. 

"I've won!" cried the man who had posed the riddle. "A point for our side!" A token was duly 
given to the team of the left. [381] 

"Disgraceful!" said the members of the other team. "Every one knows the answer to that riddle. 
They certainly shouldn't get a point." 

"But he said he did not know," replied the man. "How can you claim he hasn't lost?" In this and 
in each of the subsequent contests he argued so effectively that his side won. 

"Later the player who had failed to answer the first riddle was being taken to task by his team¬ 
mates. "We admit," they said, "that people can forget the answers to the most obvious ques 
tions and have to concede defeat. But what possible reason could you have to say you didn't 
know?" [3821 And they made him pay a forfeit." 

When the Empress had finished her story, all the ladies burst out laughing. "The people on the 
team of the right had good reason to be annoyed with their man," said one of them. "I can see 
why they were disappointed. And how furious the other team must have been to hear their 
candidate lead off with such a silly riddle!" 

"Indeed," I thought, "how could anyone possibly forget some thing so simple and 

95. On the Tenth Day of the First Month 

On the tenth day of the First Month there were thick clouds in the sky but the sun shone 
through brightly. In a rough, uncultivated field behind a poor dwelling-house grew a young 
peach tree. Little branches sprouted thickly all over it; I noticed that the leaves were green on 
one side while on the other they were dark and glossy as if coloured with a deep red dye. 

A slender youth, with beautiful hair and wearing a torn hunting costume, had climbed the tree. 
At the foot stood a little boy; he had on short clogs, and over a plum-red under-robe he wore a 
white hunting costume tucked up so that it bulged at the waist. "Come on!" he called to the 
youth in the tree. "Cut me a nice, branch." 

Just then a small group of girls arrived. They too had pretty hair and their jackets were torn; 
though their skirts were faded, the colours still looked quite attractive. "Please cut us some 

branches," they shouted to the lad. "Choose some that we can make into nice hare-sticks. 
Master sent us for them." 

When the youth in the tree started to throw down branches, the children ran for them helter- 
skelter, each taking her share and crying, "Lots for me! Lots for me!" It was a delightful scene. 

Then a man in a dirty trouser-skirt came running along and said that he too wanted some 
branches. The boy asked him to wait for a moment, whereupon the man began shaking the 

The boy was terrified and clung on like a monkey, which I found most amusing. One is likely to 
come across similar scenes when the plum trees start bearing fruit. 

96. Two Handsome Men 

Two handsome men are absorbed in a game of backgammon. Though they have been playing 
all day, they still do not seem tired and order a servant to light the lamp on a short stand. One 
of the players holds the dice in his hand and, before finally placing them in the box, prays 
earnestly for a good throw. The other player puts his dice-box on the board. As he sits there 
waiting, he tucks in the collar of his hunting costume, which has begun to creep up over his 
face, [383] and shakes his sagging lacquered cap. "How could anyone possibly lose after reciting 
all those charms?" he seems to be saying as he stares impatiently at his opponent. What a 
proud look he has! 

A high-ranking gentleman is about to start a game of go. He loosens the sash of his cloak and 
with a negligent air picks up the stones from his box and starts placing them on the board. 
Meanwhile his opponent, who is of lower rank, sits respectfully at some distance from the 
board, bending forward, and each time that he reaches out to place a stone he has to push 
aside his sleeve with the other hand. It is a delightful scene. 

97. Things That Give a Clean Feeling 
An earthen cup. A new metal bowl. 

A rush mat. 

The play of the light on water as one pours it into a vessel. 
A new wooden chest. 

98. Things That Give an Unclean Feeling 

A rat's nest. 

Someone who is late in washing his hands in the morning. 

White snivel, and children who sniffle as they walk. 

The containers used for oil. 

Little sparrows. [3841 

A person who does not bathe for a long time even though the weather is hot. 13851 
All faded clothes give me an unclean feeling, especially those that have glossy colours. 

99. Adorable Things 

The face of a child drawn on a melon. 13861 

A baby sparrow that comes hopping up when one imitates the squeak of a mouse; 13871 or again, 
when one has tied it with a thread round its leg and its parents bring insects or worms and pop 
them in its mouth - delightful! 

A baby of two or so is crawling rapidly along the ground. With his sharp eyes he catches sight of 
a tiny object and, picking it up with his pretty little fingers, takes it to show to a grown-up 

A child, whose hair has been cut like a nun's, 13881 is examining something; the hair falls over his 
eyes, but instead of brushing it away he holds his head to the side. The pretty white cords of his 
trouser-skirt are tied round his shoulders, and this too is most adorable. 

A young Palace page, who is still quite small, walks by in ceremonial costume. 

One picks up a pretty baby and holds him for a while in one's arms; while one is fondling him, 
he clings to one's neck and then falls asleep. 

The objects used during the Display of Dolls. 

One picks up a tiny lotus leaf that is floating on a pond and examines it. Not only lotus leaves, 
but little hollyhock flowers, and indeed all small things, are most adorable. 

An extremely plump baby, who is about a year old and has a lovely white skin, comes crawling 
towards one, dressed in a long gauze robe of violet with the sleeves tucked up. 

A little boy of about eight who reads aloud from a book in his childish voice. 

Pretty, white chicks who are still not fully fledged and look as if their clothes are too short for 
them; cheeping loudly, they follow one on their long legs, or walk close to the mother hen. 

Duck eggs. An urn containing the relics of some holy person. Wild pinks. 

100. Presumptuous Things 

A child who has nothing particular to recommend him yet is used to being spoilt by people. 

One is about to say something to a person who is obviously embarrassed, but then he speaks 
first - very strange. 

A child of about four, whose parents live near by, comes to one's house and behaves 
mischievously. He picks up one's things, scatters them about the place, and damages them. As a 
rule he is held in check and cannot do as he wishes, but, when his mother is with him, he feels 
that he can assert himself. "Let me see that. Mama," he says, tugging at her skirts and pointing 
to some coveted object. The mother tells him that she is talking to grown up people and pays 
no more attention to him, whereupon the child manages to take hold of the object by himself, 
picks it up, and examines it-oh, how hateful! Instead of snatching the thing from him and hiding 
it, the mother simply says, "You naughty child!" Then she adds with a smile, "You mustn't do 
that. You'll damage it, you know." The mother is hateful too. Since it would be unseemly to say 
anything, one has to sit there in silence, anxiously watching the child. 

101. Squalid Things 

The back of a piece of embroidery. The inside of a cat's ear. 

A swarm of mice, who still have no fur, when they come wriggling out of their nest. 

The seams of a fur robe that has not yet been lined. Darkness in a place that does not give the 
impression of being very clean. 

A rather unattractive woman who looks after a large brood of children. 

A woman who falls ill and remains unwell for a long time. In the mind of her lover, who is not 
particularly devoted to her, she must appear rather squalid. 

102. People Who Seem to Suffer 

The nurse looking after a baby who cries at night. 

A man with two mistresses who is obliged to see them being bitter and jealous towards each 

An exorcist who has to deal with an obstinate spirit. He hopes that his incantations will take 
effect quickly; but often he is disappointed and has to persevere, praying that after all his 
efforts he will not end up as a laughing-stock. 

A woman passionately loved by a man who is absurdly jealous. 

The powerful men who serve in the First Place never seem to be at ease though one would 
imagine that they had a pleasant enough life. 

Nervous people. 

103. Enviable People 

One has been learning a sacred text by heart; but, though one has gone over the same passage 
again and again, one still recites it haltingly and keeps on forgetting words. Meanwhile one 
hears other people, not only clerics (for whom it is natural) but ordinary men and women, 
reciting such passages without the slightest effort, and one wonders when one will ever be able 
to come up to their standard. 

When one is ill in bed and hears people walking about, laugh ing loudly and chatting away as if 
they did not have a care in the world, how enviable they seem! 

Once on the day of the Horse in the Second Month I decided to visit Inari. By the time I had 
reached the Middle Shrine I was already worn out; yet I kept going and was on my way to the 
Upper Shrine when a group of people passed me. Though they had evidently started after I did, 
they strode briskly up the hill without the slightest look of discomfort -- very enviable. 

I had made haste to leave at dawn, but by the Hour of the Snake 13891 I was still only half way to 
the top. To make matters worse, it was gradually becoming hot, and I felt really wretched. 

When I stopped to rest, I began crying from exhaustion and wondered why I had come on this 
pilgrimage when there were so many people who had never even thought of making the effort. 
Just then I saw a woman in her thirties walking down the hill. She was not wearing a travelling 
costume, but had simply tucked up the bottom of her skirts. "I am making the pilgrimage seven 
times today," she declared to the people she met on her way. "I've been up three times already 
and there won't be any trouble about the other four times. I have to be back by the Hour of the 
Sheep." 13901 She was a woman I could hardly have noticed if I had met her anywhere else; but at 
that moment I wished I could change places with her. 

I greatly envy people who have nice children, whether they grow up to be priests or become 
ordinary men and women. 

Women who have beautiful hair with tresses that fall splendidly over their shoulders. 

People of high rank who are always surrounded by respectful attendants are most enviable. 

People who have a good hand, who are skilful at composing poems, and who are always chosen 
first when there is a letter to be written... Several women are attending a lady of quality who 
wishes a letter to be written on her behalf to an important person. Obviously many of them are 
suited for the task (it is not likely that all her women will have writing as feeble as the tracks of 
a bird's feet); yet the lady especially summons a woman who is not in the room and, producing 
her own inkstone, tells her to write the letter. This is bound to make the others envious. The 
fortunate woman may be one of the older members of the house hold, whose writing is of the 
most elementary kind; yet she will set herself to the task with enthusiasm. On the other hand 
she may be an experienced calligrapher. Perhaps the letter is going to some High Court Noble; 
or possibly it is intended to introduce a young woman who is hoping to take service in the 
Palace. The writer is instructed to do her very best, and she begins by carefully selecting the 
paper. Meanwhile her fellow attendants gather round and make envious jokes. 

On first learning the zither or the flute, one is extremely envious of experienced players and 
wonders when one will ever reach that stage. 

The nurse of the Emperor or of the Crown Prince. 

The women in the Palace who are privileged to see His Majesty's consorts. 

People who can afford to build their own Chapel of Meditation and pray there in the evening 
and at dawn. 

When one's opponent has a lucky throw of dice in back gammon, he is most enviable. 

A saint who has really given up all thoughts of the world. 

104. Things That One Is in a Hurry to See or to Hear 

Rolled dyeing, uneven shading, and all other forms of dappled dyeing. 

When a woman has just had a child, one is in a hurry to find out whether it is a boy or a girl. If 
she is a lady of quality, one is obviously most curious; but, even if she is a servant or someone 
else of humble station, one still wants to know. 

Early in the morning on the first day of the period of official appointments one is eager to hear 
whether a certain acquaintance will receive his governorship. 

A letter from the man one loves. 

105. While We Were in Mourning for the Chancellor 

While we were in mourning for the Chancellor, Her Majesty had to leave the Palace on the 
occasion of the Great Purification at the end of the Sixth Month. Since the Empress's Office lay 

in an unlucky direction, she proceeded to the Dining Hall of the High Court Nobles. [3911 It was 
terribly hot that first evening and so dark that one could not see anything. We spent a rather 
anxious night in our cramped quarters. On the following morning, when we got up and looked 
about, we found that the building was a low, flat structure with a tiled roof that gave it a 
peculiar, Chinese air. There were none of the usual lattices, only bamboo blinds hanging down 
all round the room. Yet the place was strangely charming. 

While we were staying there, I and the other ladies-in-waiting used to go into the garden for a 
walk every morning. Conspicuous among the plants were the masses of flowers known as 
yellow day-lilies which grew along the bamboo fence and looked just right in front of this 
particular building. 

The Time Office 13921 was directly next door, and the gong sounded different from usual. Some of 
the younger ladies in our group were curious to hear it, and one day about twenty of them ran 
over to the building and climbed the high bell-tower. I stayed at the bottom and looked up at 
them. As they stood there in their light grey skirts, Chinese jackets, matching dresses of unlined 
silk, and scarlet petticoats, they really looked as if they might have descended from heaven 
(though one could hardly have called them angels). I also enjoyed watching the faces of some of 
the other ladies who, though quite as young as the ones in the tower, could not join them 
because of their own superior rank, and were looking up at them enviously. 

When the sun had set, the older women joined the younger ones under the cover of darkness, 
and they all set off for the guard-house. It appears that, when they arrived there, they played 
about and laughed so noisily that the guard-house attendants became angry. "What a way to 
behave!" they exclaimed and accused the ladies of having climbed into the chairs normally 
occupied by the High Court Nobles and of having upset and damaged the benches used by the 
members of the Great Council of State. But the women paid no attention. 

Perhaps because the building was very old and covered with tiles, it became unspeakably hot at 
night, and we slept outside the blinds. All day long, centipedes kept falling from the ceiling (this 
also because the building was so old), and great droves of hornets flew into our room; this we 
found very frightening. 

Every day senior courtiers came to call, and often they stayed talking until late at night. When 
one of them heard a lady-in waiting say something about the Dining Hall, he delighted us by 
reciting, "Who would have believed it? That the grounds of the Great Council would so soon 
become a pleasure garden." 

Autumn came, but in our cramped quarters no "cooling wind" 13931 was wafted from any side. 

We could, however, hear the sound of the autumn insects. 

On the eve of the Empress's return to the Palace on the eighth, the two stars 13941 seemed closer 
than usual. This too was no doubt because the building and its garden were so cramped. 

106. One Day Captain Tadanobu, the Imperial Adviser, Came to Call 

One day Captain Tadanobu, the Imperial Adviser, came to call in the company of Captain 
Nobukata. I went out on the veranda with some of the other ladies-in-waiting, and we chatted 
with the two gentlemen. In the course of our conversation, I suddenly asked Tadanobu, "Which 
poem will you be reciting tomorrow?" 

Why, of course," he answered after a moment's thought, "it will be the one about the Fourth 
Month in this world of men." [3951 

I was delighted that he should have remembered an old poem like this and that he should have 
replied so adroitly. Unlike women, men are liable to forget old poems, 13961 even the ones they 
have written themselves, and so I was especially impressed by Tadanobu's feat. The allusion, of 
course, was lost on the other women behind the screen and on Captain Nobukata, who was 
standing in front. 

107. It Was Late at Night 

It was late at night on the same day, the last of the Third Month. There had been a large 
number of senior courtiers next to the first door of the long corridor in the Palace, but one by 
one they had slipped away, and now no one remained but the Captain First Secretary, 
Tadanobu, Captain Nobukata of the Minamotos, and a certain Chamberlain of the Sixth Rank. 
They spoke about all sorts of things, chanted passages from the sutras, and recited Japanese 

"Now the night is over," declared Tadanobu. "Let us go home." And he added the line, "The 
tears they shed on parting will turn to dew when morning comes." [3971 Nobukata joined him in 
reciting the poem, and it was delightful to hear them. 

She really is in a hurry - that Weaver of yours!" I remarked. "I thought of that quotation on the 
spur of the moment," replied Tadanobu, looking very cross. "The situation happened to remind 
me of a parting at dawn. What a shame that you should have to tease us like that! In this palace 
one is always sorry when one has made some inadvertent remark. Since it was becoming very 
light, Tadanobu added, "It is impossible for the God of Kazuraki to remain here any longer." [398] 
And the gentlemen made their way home through the thick grass in the garden. 

When the time actually came for the Tanabata Festival, I hoped to be able to say something 
about this conversation. In the meantime, however, Tadanobu had become an Imperial Adviser, 
and it seemed unlikely that I would see him. I planned to write a letter that might be delivered 
by someone from the Office of Grounds; but I was pleasantly surprised to receive a personal 
visit from him on the seventh of the month. Would Tadanobu remember our conversation? If I 
brought it up casually, he would no doubt put his head to the side with a question ing look, and 
I should have to remind him of what had been said. As it turned out, he replied without the 

slightest hesitation, and this really delighted me. For months I had been wondering when our 
conversation would be mentioned again (here, I am afraid, my fanciful nature was at work), and 
now I was most impressed to find that he had remembered everything and prepared his 
answer. Nobukata, who like Tadanobu had been annoyed on the previous occasion, again 
accompanied him on this visit, but obviously remembered nothing. "Really!" Tadanobu 
exclaimed. "Do you mean to say you've forgotten how she criticized me at dawn that day?" 

"Ah, to be sure, to be sure," replied Nobukata, laughing - most pathetic. 

In our discussion of men and women Tadanobu and I often used the terminology of go. Thus, 
when we wanted to imply that two people were on intimate terms, we would say that they had 
"yielded their hands" or "filled up the spaces". Or again we would use expressions like "he's 
going to keep his hand" or "the time has come to part the pieces" (meaning "so-and-so has 
become far too familiar"). [399] In this way we could understand each other without letting 
anyone else know what we had in mind. 

Nobukata heard about our language and one day he came up to me and inquired what it was all 
about. Since I refused to tell him, he went to Tadanobu and reproachfully asked him for an 
explanation. Out of regard for their friendship Tadanobu let him into the secret. 

Nobukata now anxiously awaited a chance to display his new knowledge. One day he came to 
our building and asked to speak to me. "Is there a go board here?" he began. "What would you 
say if I too wanted to play? Would you yield your hand to me? I am just as good as Tadanobu, 
you know. You mustn't dis criminate against me." 

"If I played like that," I replied, "people could well speak of a roving eye." [4001 

When Nobukata told Tadanobu about this, he was delighted that I had given a happy answer. 
Yes, I really like people who remember things. 

One day, after Tadanobu's promotion to the rank of Imperial Adviser had been decided, I was in 
His Majesty's presence. "Tadanobu is wonderful at reciting Chinese poetry," I said. "Now that 
he has been promoted, who is going to be left to give us lines like "Hsiao of Kuai-chi, having 
visited the ancient tomb"? Your Majesty had better make sure that he continues coming here, 
even if it means that he has to wait a little longer for his new post. It would be too sad to lose 
him." The Emperor burst out laughing. "I shall tell him what you have said," he replied, "and I 
shall withhold the appointment." 

Tadanobu received his promotion all the same. I was feeling very sorry about this when one day 
Nobukata came to see me. By now he was convinced that he was in no way Tadanobu's inferior 
and gave himself great airs. I spoke to him about Tadanobu and said, "He can recite the Chinese 
poem, "Had not yet reached the term of thirty" [4011 in a delightfully original way." 

"But why shouldn't I be just as good? In fact I shall try to do it even better." So saying, 

Nobukata recited the poem in question. 

"That's not bad at all," I said when he had finished. 

"Oh dear!" said Nobukata. "Why can't I recite it as well as he does?" 

There's a particular charm," I explained, "in the way Tada nobu recites the passage about "the 
term of thirty"." At this Nobukata left with a bitter chuckle. 

Some time later, when Tadanobu was visiting the head quarters of the Inner Palace Guards, 
Nobukata made a point of seeing him and reported what I had said, requesting that he teach 
him the passage. Tadanobu laughingly agreed. 

I was unaware of all this when one day I heard someone reciting verse outside my room. The 
style was remarkably like Tadanobu's. "Who's that?" I called out in surprise. It was Nobukata 
who replied. "You'll be amazed," he said. "Yesterday Tadanobu visited our guard-house and I 
asked him to let me hear how he recited poetry. As soon as he had done so, I was able to say 
the verses in a way that everyone found extremely similar to his. Just now when you asked who 
was there, you certainly did not sound as if you found my style unattractive." 

I was delighted to think that he had made this special effort and, since he had now begun to 
recite the precise poem that I had mentioned earlier, I went out and spoke to him. 

"I owe this new talent of mine to Tadanobu," he said when he saw me. "I should turn in his 
direction and make obeisance.". 

Thereafter, though I often avoided people who came to visit me in my room (my usual excuse 
being that I was on duty in the Palace), I was always at home to Nobukata when he arrived 
reciting his poem. I told the Empress the story and she was much amused. 

One day, during an Imperial Abstinence at the Palace, Nobu kata ordered a certain Clerk 14021 in 
the Right Division of the Inner Palace Guards (his name was Mitsu-something-or-other) to bring 
me a letter. It was written on a double sheet of Michinoku paper and said, "I had intended to 
come and see you today but was prevented by the Imperial Abstinence. What do you think of 
"had not yet reached the term of thirty"?". 

"I believe you must already have got beyond that term," I replied. "Indeed you must by now be 
as old as Chu Mai-chen when he admonished his wife." 14031 

Once again Nobukata was annoyed and he reported my answer to the Emperor, who in turn 
discussed it with the Empress when he visited her. "How could Shonagon possibly know such a 
thing?" he said, laughing. "Chu Mai-chen was over forty 14041 when he reprimanded his wife, and 
it makes Nobukata sad that someone should have written to him like that." 

When I heard about this, I was convinced that Nobukata had taken leave of his senses. 14051 

108. The Name "Kokiden" 

The name "Kokiden" was given to the Imperial Lady who was the daughter of the Major Captain 
of the Left Division residing in Kanin Palace. In her service was a lady called Sakyo (the daughter 
of a woman by the name of Uchifushi ("Lying Down")), who was loved by Nobukata and courted 
by him. People used to laugh at him about this liaison. One day Nobukata came to the 
Empress's Office, where Her Majesty was then residing. "I should have stood night watch here 
from time to time," he told her, "but Your Majesty's ladies have not treated me properly and so 
I have been avoiding this place. If only I had been assigned to the night duty room in the Palace, 

I should faithfully have carried out my responsibilities." 

The other ladies agreed with him, but I interrupted and said, "Yes, indeed. Some people like to 
have a place where they can lie down and rest. [4061 When they have found such a place they go 
there all the time, but as for coming here..." 

"I shall never tell you anything again," said Nobukata in a voice that was both solemn and 
bitter. "I confided in you as a friend, but you have treated the matter as if it were common 

"Very odd!" I replied. "What on earth have I said? There was nothing in my remark that you 
could possibly object to." 

When I nudged the lady next to me, she turned to Nobukata with a laugh and said, "Yes, why 
should you be so annoyed by a harmless remark?" 

"No doubt Shonagon put you up to saying that," exclaimed Nobukata furiously. 

"I dislike hearing other people gossip," I said, "and I certainly don't go in for that sort of thing 
myself." With this the other ladies and I all left. 

A few days later Nobukata again addressed me bitterly. "You have been spreading shameful 
things about me," he said, "when all along it was a story concocted by some of the senior 
courtiers to make people laugh at me." 

"In that case," I replied, "it would appear that I am not the only one to blame. Really, I find your 
attitude very strange." 

Thereafter Nobukata broke entirely with Sakyo. 

109. Things That are Distant Though Near 
Festivals celebrated near the Palace. [4071 

Relations between brothers, sisters, and other members of a family who do not love each 

The zigzag path leading up to the temple at Kurama. [4081 

The last day of the Twelfth Month and the first of the First. 

110. Things That are Near Though Distant 
Paradise. [4091 

The course of a boat. [410] 

Relations between a man and a woman. 

111. Gentlemen of the Fifth Rank 

Officials in the Ministry of Ceremonial, the Left Division of the Outer Palace Guards, and the 
Office of Scribes are delighted to belong to the Fifth Rank; [4111 but it is hardly a position that 
Chamberlains of the Sixth Rank would covet. 

A man who has been awarded the head-dress of nobility, and who serves as a Provisional 
Governor or in some other Fifth Rank post, usually lives in a small, shingled house. Sometimes 
he will surround it with a new fence made of strips of cypress, next to which he will build a 
shelter for carriages, and he will tether his oxen to the trees that cluster directly in front of the 
house and let them graze there—all very hateful. He is also likely to have an attractive garden, 
and inside the house, lyo blinds suspended by cords of purple leather and sliding doors that 
have been covered with material; at night he gives instructions that the main gate should be 
securely closed. Considering that he is a man without the slightest prospects in life, all this show 
is most distasteful. [4121 An official of this rank should not have his own house at all. So long as 
no uncle or elder brother is already living there, he had better stay with his parents or, of 
course, with his parents in-law. Alternatively it is quite proper for him to live in a house whose 
owner is absent or in the house of a close friend who is serving in the provinces and has no use 
for it. If none of this is possible, he can always arrange to stay for a while in one of the many 
houses that belong to Imperial Princesses or to the children of the Empress Dowager; then, 
when he has obtained a good post for himself, he can move into a more permanent place. 

112. When a Woman Lives Alone 

When a woman lives alone, her house should be extremely dilapidated, the mud wall should be 
falling to pieces, and if there is a pond, it should be overgrown with water-plants. It is not 
essential that the garden be covered with sage-brush; [413] but weeds should be growing 
through the sand in patches, for this gives the place a poignantly desolate look. 

I greatly dislike a woman's house when it is clear that she has scurried about with a knowing 
look on her face, arranging every thing just as it should be, and when the gate is kept tightly 

113. When a Court Lady Is on Leave 

When a Court lady is on leave from the Palace, it is pleasant if she can stay with her parents. 
While she is there, people are always coming and going, there is a lot of noisy conversation in 
the back rooms, and the clatter of horses' hoofs resounds outside. Yet she is in no danger of 
being criticized. [4141 

Things are very different if she is staying in someone else's house. Let us suppose that a man 
comes to visit the lady, either openly or in secret. He stands by the front gate and says to her, "I 
did not know you were at home, else I should certainly have called on you before. When will 
you return to Court?" If it is a man she has set her heart on, the lady cannot possibly leave him 
standing outside and she opens the front door for him. 

Then, to her great annoyance, she hears the owner of the house, who has evidently decided 
that there is too much noise and that it is dangerous to leave the door unbolted so late at night. 
"Has the outer gate been closed?" he asks the porter. "No, Sir," says the latter in a disgruntled 
tone. "There's still a visitor in the house." "Well, be sure to close it as soon as he's left. There 
have been a lot of burglaries recently." This is especially irking for the lady since the man who is 
with her can hear everything. Mean while the servants are constantly peeping in to see 
whether the guest is getting ready to leave - much to the amusement of the attendants who 
have accompanied him on his visit. Then the attendants start imitating the owner's voice. Oh, 
what a scolding there would be if he heard them! 

Sometimes the lady will receive visits from a man who does not show any tender feelings for 
her in either his looks or his words. Presumably he must care for her; else why would he 
continue his visits night after night? Nevertheless the man may turn out to be quite harmless 
and will leave her saying, "It's really getting late. And I suppose it is rather dangerous to keep 
the gate open at this hour." 

One can tell if a man really loves one, because he will insist on staying all night however much 
one may urge him to leave. Time after time the night watchman has made his rounds, and now 
he exclaims in a very audible voice, "Good heavens! The dawn has come" (as if it were so 
surprising) "and someone's gone and left the gate wide open all night. Such carelessness!" Then 
he securely bolts the gate, though it is now light and there is no need for such precautions. How 
unpleasant it all is! 

Yes, things are a great deal better when one is staying with one's own parents. Parents-in-law, 
however, are the most awk ward of all, since one is always worrying about what they are going 
to think, I imagine that it must also be difficult to stay with an elder brother. 

What I really like is a house where no one cares about the gate either in the middle of the night 
or at dawn, and where one is free to meet one's visitor, whether he be an Imperial Prince or a 
gentleman from the Palace. In the winter one can stay awake together all night with the lattices 
wide open. When the time comes for him to leave, one has the pleasure of watching him 
playing upon his flute as he goes; if a bright moon is still hanging in the sky, it is a particular 
delight. After he has disappeared, one does not go to bed at once, but stays up, discussing the 
visitor with one's companions, and exchanging poems; then gradually one falls asleep. 

114. It Is Delightful When There Has Been a Thin Fall of Snow 

It is delightful when there has been a thin fall of snow; or again when it has piled up very high 
and in the evening we sit round a brazier at the edge of the veranda with a few congenial 
friends, chatting till darkness falls. There is no need for the lamp, since the snow itself reflects a 
clear light. Raking the ashes in the brazier with a pair of fire-tongs, we discuss all sorts of 
moving and amusing things. 

It already seems to be quite late at night when we hear the sound of footsteps. We all look up, 
wondering who it may be. A man is approaching - the type of man that often visits us 
unannounced on such occasions. "I was wondering how you ladies were enjoying today's 
snow," he says. "I had intended to come and see you earlier, but I was held up all day in some 
other place." 

"Ah!" says one of us and quotes the poem about "the man who came today". [4151 Then, with a 
great deal of laughter, we begin talking about what has happened since the morning and about 
all sorts of other things. The visitor has been offered around cushion, but he prefers to sit on 
the wooden veranda with one leg hanging over the edge. 

The conversation goes on until the bell announces that dawn has come. The ladies sitting 
behind the blinds and the man in front [416] feel that they still have many things to tell each 
other; but he has to be off before daylight. As he gets ready to leave, he charmingly recites, 
"Snow lay upon such-and-such hills". 14171 Then he is gone. If he had not been there, we should 
certainly not have stayed up all night like this; it was he who made the occasion so delightful, 
and now we start discussing what an elegant man he is. 

115. One Evening during the Reign of Emperor Murakami 

One evening during the reign of Emperor Murakami, when it had been snowing very heavily, 
and the moon was shining brightly. His Majesty ordered that some snow be heaped on to a 
platter. Then a branch of plum blossom was stuck into it, and the Emperor told someone to 
hand the platter to Hyoe, the Lady Chamberlain. "Let us have a poem about this," he said to 
her. "What will you give us?" 

"The moon, the snow, the flowers," [418] she replied, much to His Majesty's delight. "To have 
composed a special poem for the occasion," he said, "would have been the ordinary thing to 
do. But to find a line that fits the moment so beautifully—that is really hard." 

On another day, when Lady Hyoe was accompanying Emperor Murakami, His Majesty stopped 
for a moment in the Senior Courtiers' Chamber, which was empty at the time, and, noticing 
that some smoke was coming out of the square brazier, said, "What can that be? Go and have a 
look." Lady Hyoe went and examined the brazier, then returned with this delightful poem, 
which she recited to the Emperor: 

What do I see in the open sea. 

Or aflame in the open fire? 

It must be a frying frog I see. 

Or a woman diver rowing home. [4191 

In fact a frog had jumped into the fire and was burning away. 

116. When I first went into Waiting 

When I first went into waiting at Her Majesty's Court, so many different things embarrassed me 
that I could not even reckon them up and I was always on the verge of tears. As a result I tried 
to avoid appearing before the Empress except at night, and even then I stayed hidden behind a 
three-foot curtain of state. 

On one occasion Her Majesty brought out some pictures and showed them to me, but I was so 
ill at ease that I could hardly stretch out my hand to take them. She pointed to one picture after 
another, explaining what each represented. Since the lamp had been put on a low tray-stand, 
one could view the pictures even better than in the daytime, and every hair of my head was 
clearly visible. I managed to control my embarrassment and had a proper look. It was a very 
cold time of the year and when Her Majesty gave me the paintings I could hardly see her hands; 
[ 42 °] f rom w hat I made out, they were of a light pink hue that I found extraordinarily 
attractive. I gazed at the Empress with amazement. Simple as I was and unaccustomed to such 
wonderful sights, I did not understand how a being like this could possibly exist in our world. 

At dawn I was about to hurry back to my room when Her Majesty said, "Even the God of 
Kazuraki would stay a little longer." So I sat down again, but I leant forward sideways in such a 
way that Her Majesty could not see me directly, and kept the lattice shut. One of the ladies who 
came into the room noticed this and said that it should be opened. A servant heard her and 
started towards it, but Her Majesty said, "Wait. Leave the lattice as it is." The two women went 
out, laughing to each other. 

Her Majesty then asked me various questions and finally said, "I am sure you want to return to 
your room. So off you go! But be sure to come again this evening - and early too." 

As soon as I had crept out of Her Majesty's presence and was back in my room, I threw open all 
the lattices and looked out at the magnificent snow. 

During the day I received several notes from Her Majesty telling me to come while it was still 
light. "The sky is clouded with snow," she wrote, "and no one will be able to see you clearly." 

Noticing my hesitation, the lady in charge of my room [4211 urged me, saying, "I don't know how 
you can stay shut up like this all day long. Her Majesty has granted you the extraordinary good 
fortune of being admitted into her presence, and she must certainly have her reasons. To be 
unresponsive to another per son's kindness is a most hateful way to behave." This was enough 
to make me hurry back to the Empress; but I was overcome with embarrassment, and it was 
not easy for me. 

On my way I was delighted to see the snow beautifully piled on top of the fire huts. When I 
entered Her Majesty's room, I noticed that the usual square brazier was full to the brim with 
burning charcoal and that no one was sitting next to it. The Empress herself was seated in front 
of a round brazier made of Shen [4221 wood and decorated with pear-skin lacquer. She was 
surrounded by a group of high-ranking ladies who were in constant attendance upon her. In the 
next part of the room a tightly packed row of ladies-in-waiting sat in front of a long, rectangular 
brazier, with their Chinese jackets worn in such a way that they trailed on the floor. Observing 
how experienced they were in their duties and how easily they carried them out, I could not 
help feeling envious. There was not a trace of awkwardness in any of their movements as they 
got up to deliver notes to Her Majesty from the outside and sat down again by the brazier, 
talking and laughing to each other. When would I ever be able to manage like that, I wondered 
nervously. Still further in the back of the room sat a small group of ladies who were looking at 
pictures together. 

After a while I heard the voices of outrunners loudly ordering people to make way. "His 
Excellency, the Chancellor, is coming," said one of the ladies, and they all cleared away their 
scattered belongings. I retired to the back of the room; but despite my modesty, I was curious 
to see the great man in person and I peeped through a crack at the bottom of the curtain of 
state where I was sitting. It turned out that it was not Michitaka, but his son, Korechika, the 
Major Counsellor. The purple of his Court cloak and trousers looked magnificent against the 
white snow. "I should not have come," he said, standing next to one of the pillars," because 
both yesterday and today are days of abstinence. But it has been snowing so hard that I felt 
bound to call and find out whether all was well with you." 

"How did you manage?" said Her Majesty. "I thought that all the paths were buried. 

"Well," replied Korechika, "it occurred to me that I might move your heart." [4231 

Could anything surpass this conversation between the Em press and her brother? This was the 
sort of exchange that is so eloquently described in romances; and the Empress herself, arrayed 
in a white dress, a robe of white Chinese damask, and two more layers of scarlet damask over 
which her hair hung down loosely at the back, had a beauty that I had seen in paintings but 
never in real life: it was all like a dream. 

Korechika joked with the ladies-in-waiting, and they replied without the slightest 
embarrassment, freely arguing with him and contradicting his remarks when they disagreed. I 
was absolutely dazzled by it all and found myself blushing without any particular reason, 
Korechika ate a few fruits and told one of the servants to offer some to the Empress. He must 
have asked who was behind the curtain of state and one of the ladies must have told him that it 
was I; for he stood up and walked to the back of the room. At first I thought he was leaving, but 
instead he came and sat very close to me; he began to talk about various things he had heard 
about me before I came into waiting and asked whether they were true. I had been 
embarrassed enough when I had been looking at him from a distance with the curtain of state 
between us; now that we were actually facing each other I felt extremely stupid and could 
hardly believe that this was really happening to me. 

In the past, when I had gone to watch Imperial Processions and the like, Korechika had 
sometimes glanced in the direction of my carriage; but I had always pulled the inner blinds 
close together, and hidden my face behind a fan for fear that he might see my silhouette 
through the blinds. I wondered how I could ever have chosen to embark on a career for which I 
was so ill suited by nature. What on earth should I say to him? I was bathed in sweat and 
altogether in a terrible state. To make matters worse, Korechika now seized the fan behind 
which I had prudently hidden myself, and I realized that my hair must be scattered all over my 
forehead in a terrible mess; no doubt every thing about my appearance bespoke the 
embarrassment I felt at that moment. 

I had hoped Korechika would leave quickly, but he showed no sign of doing so; instead he sat 
there, toying with my fan and asking who had done the paintings on it. I kept my head lowered 
and pressed the sleeve of my Chinese jacket to my face - so tightly indeed, that bits of powder 
must have stuck to it, making my complexion all mottled. 

The Empress, who no doubt realized how desperately I wanted Korechika to leave, turned to 
him and said, "Look at this notebook. Whose writing do you suppose it is?" I was relieved to 
think that now he would finally go; but instead he asked her to have the book brought to him so 
that he could examine it. "Really," she said. "You can perfectly well come here yourself and 
have a look." "No I can't," he replied. "Shonagon has got hold of me and won't let go." It was a 
very fashionable sort of joke but hardly suited to my rank or age, and I felt terribly ill at ease. 

Her Majesty held up the book, in which something had been written in a cursive script, and 
looked at it. "Well indeed," said Korechika, "whose can it be? Let's show it to Shonagon. I am 
sure she can recognize the handwriting of anyone in the world." The aim of all these absurd 
remarks, of course, was to draw me out. 

As if a single gentleman were not enough to embarrass me, another one now arrived, preceded 
by outrunners who cleared the way for him. This gentleman too was wearing a Court cloak, and 
he looked even more splendid than Korechika. He sat down and started telling some amusing 
stories, which delighted the ladies-in-waiting. "Oh yes," they said, laughing, "we saw Lord So- 
and-so when he was -." As I heard them mention the names of one senior courtier after 
another, I felt they must be talking about spirits or heavenly beings who had descended to 
earth. Yet, after some time had passed and I had grown accustomed to Court service, I realized 
that there had been nothing very impressive about their conversation. No doubt these same 
ladies, who talked so casually to Lord Korechika, had been just as embarrassed as I when they 
first came into waiting, but had little by little become" used to Court society until their shyness 
had naturally disappeared. 

The Empress spoke to me for a while and then asked, "Are you really fond of me?" "But Your 
Majesty," I replied, "how could I possibly not be fond of you?" Just then someone sneezed 
loudly in the Table Room. "Oh dear!" said the Empress. "So you're telling a lie. [4241 Well, so be 
it." And she retired into the back of the room. 

To think that Her Majesty believed I was lying! If I had said that I was fairly fond of her, that 
would have been untrue. The real liar, I thought, was the sneezer's nose. Who could have done 
such a terrible thing? I dislike sneezes at the best of times, and whenever I feel like sneezing 
myself I deliberately smother it. All the more hateful was it that someone should have sneezed 
at this moment. But I was still far too inexperienced to say any thing that might have repaired 
the damage: and, since the day was dawning, I retired to my room. As soon as I arrived, a 
servant brought me an elegant-looking letter, written on fine, smooth paper of light green. This 
is what Her Majesty feels," I read. 

How, if there were no God Tadasu in the sky. 

And none to judge what is the truth and what a lie. 

How should I know which words were falsely said? 

My emotions were a jumble of delight and dismay, and once again I wished I could find out who 
had sneezed on the previous night. "Please give Her Majesty the following reply," I said, "and 
help me to make up for the harm that has been done. 

"A simple sneeze might give the lie 

To one whose love is small. 

But sad indeed that she who truly loves. 

Should suffer from so slight a thing! [425] 

The curse of God Shiki [426] is of course very terrible." 

Even after I had sent my reply I still felt most unhappy and wondered why someone should 
have had to sneeze at such an inopportune moment. 

117. People Who Look Pleased with Themselves 

A man who sneezes before anyone else on the morning of New Year's Day. [4271 

A man who has obtained an appointment as Chamberlain for his dear son at a time when the 
competition is very keen. 

A man who has received the governorship of one of the first class provinces that is being 
offered in the current period of official appointments. "What a splendid appointment!" people 
say and congratulate him warmly, to which he smugly replies, "How so? I've been ruined." 

A young man who has been chosen out of several candidates to be adopted as son-in-law. 

An exorcist who has succeeded in bringing a very stubborn spirit under control. 

A player in a game of hidden rhymes who quickly discovers the concealed character. [42S1 

During a small-bow contest one of the archers coughs. The man who is about to shoot is 
distracted by the sound and be comes nervous; but he manages to control himself and his 
arrow shoots off with a loud twang, hitting the target. How pleased he looks with himself! 

In a game of go a greedy player switches his attention to a different part of the board, not quite 
realizing what a large number of stones he is likely to capture there. [429] His opponent is unable 
to keep his eyes in the new sector, and the greedy player manages to win several stones. Oh, 
how pleased he looks! He laughs proudly, feeling happier about this windfall than he would 
about an ordinary gain. 

At long last a man has received the governorship for which he has been waiting. He looks 
radiantly happy. In the past every one treated him with rudeness and disdain; but, painful as it 
was, he bore it all patiently, realizing that he had no choice. Now even his superiors respect the 
man and play up to him with remarks like, "I am entirely at Your Excellency's service." He is 
attended by women and surrounded by elegant furnishings and clothing that he has never 
known before. [4301 Seeing all this, one wonders whether he can really be the same man whom 
even simple servants used to scorn. Then this fortunate governor is appointed Middle Captain 
in the Inner Palace Guards. Oh, what a triumphant look he has on his face! To be a captain of 
the Guards seems far grander to him than it would to a young nobleman who received the 
same appointment. [4311 

High office is, after all, a most splendid thing. A man who holds the Fifth Rank or who serves as 
Gentleman-in-Waiting is liable to be despised; but when this same man becomes a Major 
Counsellor, Great Minister, or the like, one is overawed by him and feels that nothing in the 

world could be as impressive. Of course even a provincial governor has a position that should 
impress one; for after serving in several provinces, he may be appointed Senior Assistant 
Governor-General and promoted to the Fourth Rank, and when this happens the High Court 
Nobles themselves appear to regard him with respect. 

After all, women really have the worse time of it. There are, to be sure, cases where the nurse 
of an Emperor is appointed Assistant Attendant or given the Third Rank and thus acquires great 
dignity. Yet it does her little good since she is already an old woman. Besides, how many 
women ever attain such honours? Those who are reasonably well born consider themselves 
lucky if they can marry a governor and go down to the provinces. Of course it does sometimes 
happen that the daughter of a commoner becomes the principal consort of a High Court Noble 
and that the daughter of a High Court Noble becomes an Empress. [4321 Yet even this is not as 
splendid as when a man rises by means of promotions. How pleased such a man looks with 

Who pays any attention to a Palace Chaplain when he walks by? [4331 Though he may recite the 
scriptures in a most impressive manner and may even be quite good-looking, women despise a 
low-ranking priest, which is very sad for him. Yet, when this same man becomes a Bishop or 
Archbishop, people are over whelmed with awe and respect, and everyone is convinced that 
the Buddha himself has appeared among them. 

118. Winds 

A stormy wind. At dawn, when one is lying in bed with the lattices and panelled doors wide 
open, the wind suddenly blows into the room and stings one's face—most delightful. 

A cold, wintry wind. 

In the Third Month the moist, gentle wind that blows in the evenings moves me greatly. 

Also moving is the cool, rainy wind in the Eighth and Ninth Months. Streaks of rain are blown 
violently from the side, and I enjoy watching people cover their stiff robes of unlined silk with 
the padded coats that they put away after the summer rains. [4341 In this season they would like 
to dispense even with their unlined robes, which have become quite sweltering; instead they 
are caught off guard by the sudden change in weather and have to dress still more warmly than 

Towards the end of the Ninth Month and the beginning of the Tenth the sky is clouded over, 
there is a strong wind, and the yellow leaves fall gently to the ground, especially from the 
cherry trees and the elms. All this produces a most pleasant sense of melancholy. In the Tenth 
Month I love gardens that are full of trees. 

119. On the Day after a Fierce Autumn Wind 

On the day after a fierce autumn wind everything moves one deeply. The garden is in a pitiful 
state with all the bamboo and lattice fence knocked over and lying next to each other on the 
ground. It is bad enough if the branches of one of the great trees have been broken by the 
wind; but it is a really painful surprise to find that the tree itself has fallen down and is now 
lying flat over the bush-clover and the valerians. As one sits in one's room looking out, the 
wind, as though on purpose, gently blows the leaves one by one through the chinks of the 
lattice-window, and one finds it hard to believe that this is the same wind which yesterday 
raged so violently. 

On one such morning I caught sight of a woman creeping out from the main hall and emerging 
a few feet on to the veranda. I could see that she was a natural beauty. Over a dress of dull 
purple she wore an unlined robe of tawny cloth and a formal robe of some light material. The 
noise of the wind must have kept her awake during the night and she had just got up after 
sleeping late. Now she knelt on the veranda and looked into her mirror. With her long hair 
being blown about and gently puffed up by the wind, she was a truly splendid sight. As she 
gazed at the scene of desolation in the garden, a girl of about seventeen - not a small girl, but 
still not big enough to be called grown-up - joined her on the veranda. She wore a night-dress 
of light violet and over that a faded blue robe of stiff silk, which was badly coming apart at the 
seams and wet from the rain. Her hair, which was cut evenly at the ends like miscanthus in a 
field, reached all the way down to her feet, falling on to the veranda beyond the bottom of her 
robe. Looking at her from the side, I could make out the scarlet of her trouser-skirt, the only 
bright touch in her costume. 

In the garden a group of maids and young girls were collecting the flowers and plants that the 
wind had torn up by the roots and were propping up some that were less damaged. Several 
women were gathered in front of me by the blind, and I enjoyed seeing how envious they 
looked as they watched the young people out side and wished that they might join them. 

120. Wind Instruments 

I love the sound of the flute: it is beautiful when one hears it gradually approaching from the 
distance, and also when it is played near by and then moves far away until it becomes very 

There is nothing so charming as a man who always carries a flute when he goes out on 
horseback or on foot. Though he keeps the flute tucked in his robe and one cannot actually see 
it, one enjoys knowing it is there. 

I particularly like hearing familiar tunes played on a flute. It is also very pleasant at dawn to find 
that a flute had been left next to one's pillow by a gentleman who has been visiting one; 

presently he sends a messenger to fetch the instrument and, when one gives it to him carefully 
wrapped up, it looks like an elegant next-morning letter. 

A thirteen-pipe flute is delightful when one hears it in a carriage on a bright, moonlit night. 
True, it is bulky and rather awkward to play - and what a face people make when they blow it! 
14351 But they can look ungraceful with ordinary flutes also. 

The flageolet is a very shrill instrument, the autumn insect it most resembles being the long 
cricket. It makes a terrible noise, especially when it is played badly, and it is not something one 
wants to hear near by. I remember one of the Special Festivals at Kamo, when the musicians 
had not yet come into His Majesty's presence. One could hear the sound of their flutes from 
behind the trees, and I was just thinking how delightful it was when suddenly the flageolets 
joined in. They became shriller and shriller, until all the ladies, even those who were most 
beautifully groomed, felt their hair standing on end. 14361 Then the procession came before the 
Emperor with all the string and wind instruments playing in splendid unison. 

121. Things Worth Seeing 

The Chancellor's pilgrimage to Kamo. 

The Special Festival at Kamo. On one cold, overcast day the snow began to come down in 
scattered flakes, falling on the blue and white robes of the people in the procession and on the 
flowers that they wore in their head-dress. [437] I found the sight immensely delightful. The 
sheaths of the dancers' swords shone magnificently, and the cords of their jackets, which hung 
over the sheaths, were so bright that they might have been polished. Beneath the printed 
material of their trouser-skirts I could see the brilliant, glossy silk of their under-robes, and for a 
moment I wondered whether they were made of ice. I was relishing the beauty of the 
procession when the envoys appeared. 14381 They were certainly a most undistinguished lot, 
having been chosen from among provincial governors and the like, common looking men not 
worth one's attention. Yet so long as their faces were hidden by the sprays of wisteria in their 
head-dress, it was not too unpleasant to see them go by. While we were still watching the 
dancers, the musicians appeared, wearing willow coloured robes and yellow roses in their 
head-dress. They were insignificant men of low rank, but it was delightful to hear them 

The princess pines that grow outside 

All-powerful Kamo Shrine— 14391 
and beating the measure very loudly with their fans. 

What can compare with an Imperial Progress? When the Emperor passes in his palanquin, he is 
as impressive as a God and I forget that my work in the Palace constantly brings me into his 
presence. Not only His Majesty himself, but even people like Ladies of the Escort, who usually 

are of no importance, overawe me when I see them in an Imperial Progress. I particularly enjoy 
watching the Assistant Directors of the Bureau of Imperial Attendants 14401 as they walk past 
holding the cords of the Imperial palanquin, and also the Captains of the Inner Palace Guards, 
who serve as its escorts. 

The Return Procession of the High Priestess from Kamo is a magnificent sight. I recall one year 
when everything was especially beautiful. On the day of the Festival itself we had stopped our 
carriage on that splendidly wide road, the First Avenue, and had sat there for a long time, 
hiding our faces behind our fans and waiting for the procession to arrive. A hot sun shone 
through the carriage blinds, dazzling us and making us perspire in a most unsightly fashion. On 
the following day we set out very early to see the High Priestess's procession. Though the sun 
had risen, the sky was overcast. As we reached the gates of Urin and Chisoku Temples, we 
noticed a number of carriages decorated with branches of faded hollyhock and maple. We 
could hear a loud chorus of hototogisu. This was the bird whose song so fascinated me that I 
would lie awake at night waiting for it. 14411 1 was just thinking how delightful it was that I could 
now hear great numbers of these birds without making the slightest effort when an uguisu 
joined in with his rather croaky voice. He sounded as if he were trying to imitate the beautiful 
song of the hototogisu, and I found this unpleasant though at the same time rather amusing. 

While we sat in our carriage waiting impatiently for the procession, we saw a group of men in 
red coming from the Upper Shrine. "What's happening? Is the procession on its way?" we asked 
them; but they replied that they had no idea and continued down the road, carrying the High 
Priestess's empty palanquins. 14421 It impressed me deeply that the High Priestess herself had 
travelled in one of these palanquins; but I was rather disturbed at the thought that low fellows 
like these could have come close to her sacred presence. 

Though we had been told that there might be a long wait, the High Priestess and her retinue 
soon arrived from the Upper Shrine. First we could see the fans come into sight, then the 
yellow-green robes of the gentlemen from the Emperor's Private Office. It was a splendid sight. 
The men wore their under-robes in such a way that the white material stood out against the 
yellowish-green of their outer robes, and I was reminded so much of white u no hana blossoms 
in a green hedge that I almost expected to find a hototogisu lurking there. 

On the previous day I had noticed several of these young noblemen crowded together in a 
carriage. They had taken down the blinds, and I could see that they were messily dressed in 
hunting costumes and violet cloaks; altogether they had made a very bizarre impression. Today 
these same young men were beautifully attired in full Court costume and ready to take part in 
the High Priestess's banquet; to which they had been invited as extra guests. 14431 They looked 
extremely demure as one by one they passed, each in his own carriage; and the young Palace 
pages who followed were also very attractive. 

After the Procession had gone, things got out of hand. Every one wanted to be the first to leave 
and there was a great crush of carriages, which I found rather frightening. I stuck my fan out of 

the window to summon my attendants. "Don't be in such a hurry," I scolded them. "Go slowly." 
Since they paid not the slightest attention and continued to push ahead, I became very 
flustered and ordered them to pull up the carriage in a place where the road was a little wider. 
The men were very impatient and it annoyed them to have to stop. 

I enjoyed watching the carriages as they hurried along the road, each one trying to forge ahead 
of another. I allowed them all to get a good start before letting my men continue. It was a 
delightful road, rather like the paths that lead up to mountain villages. The thick hedges on 
both sides looked rough and shaggy; they were covered with u no hana, but the flowers had 
not yet come into bloom. I told my men to break off some of the branches and stuck them here 
and there in the carriage; they looked very pretty, all the more so since the decorations of 
maple and holly hock had unfortunately begun to fade. 

When I had glanced down the road from the distance, it had seemed impossible that all the 
carriages would get through, but now as we gradually advanced I was pleased to see it was not 
as crowded as I had thought. I noticed that the carriage of one man -1 have no idea who he can 
have been - was following close behind mine, and I decided that this was much more pleasant 
than being alone on the road. When we came to a fork where our paths separated, he leaned 
out and recited the line, "That scatter on the peak", [4441 which I found delightful. 

122. In the Fifth Month 

In the Fifth Month I love going up to a mountain village. When one passes a marsh on the way, 
a thick covering of weeds hides the water and it seems like a stretch of green grass; but as the 
escort walk across these patches, the water spurts up under their feet though it is quite 
shallow. The water is incredibly clear and looks very pretty as it gushes forth. 

Where the road runs between hedges, a branch will sometimes thrust its way into the carriage. 
One snatches at it quickly, hoping to break it off; alas, it always slips out of one's hand. 

Sometimes one's carriage will pass over a branch of sage brush, which then gets caught in the 
wheel and is lifted up at each turn, letting the passengers breathe its delicious scent. 

123. During the Hot Months 

During the hot months it is a great delight to sit on the veranda, enjoying the cool of the 
evening and observing how the outlines of objects gradually become blurred. At such a 
moment I particularly enjoy the sight of a gentleman's carriage, preceded by outriders clearing 
the way. Sometimes a couple of commoners will pass in a carriage with the rear blinds slightly 
raised. As the oxen trot along, one has a pleasant sense of freshness. It is still more delightful 
when the sound of a lute or flute comes from inside the carriage, and one feels sorry when it 
disappears in the distance. Occasionally one catches a whiff of the oxen's leather cruppers; it is 

a strange, unfamiliar smell, but, absurd as it may seem, I find something rather pleasant about 

On a very dark night it is delightful when the aroma of smoke from the pine-torches at the head 
of a procession is wafted through the air and pervades the carriage in which one is travelling. 

124. One Has Carefully Scented a Robe 

One has carefully scented a robe and then forgotten about it for several days. 14451 When finally 
one comes to wear it, the aroma is even more delicious than on freshly scented clothes. 

125. When Crossing a River 

When crossing a river in bright moonlight, I love to see the water scatter in showers of crystal 
under the oxen's feet. 

126. Things That Should Be Large 

Priests. Fruit. Houses. Provision bags. Inksticks for inkstones. 

Men's eyes: when they are too narrow, they look feminine. [4461 On the other hand, if they were 
as large as metal bowls, I should find them rather frightening. 

Round braziers. Winter cherries. 14471 Pine trees. The petals of yellow roses. 

Horses as well as oxen should be large. 

127. Things That Should Be Short 

A piece of thread when one wants to sew something in a hurry. 

A lampstand. 

The hair of a woman of the lower classes should be neat and short. 

The speech of a young girl. 

128. Nothing Annoys Me So Much 

Nothing annoys me so much as someone who arrives at a ceremony in a shabby, poorly 
decorated carriage. It is not so bad if the person has come to hear a sermon with the aim of 
clearing himself of sin; but even then a very inelegant carriage is bound to make a bad effect. 

At the Kamo Festival, of course, such negligence is quite in excusable. Yet there are people who 
actually attend the ceremony in carriages where plain white robes have been hung up instead 
of the proper blinds. Even when one has carefully equipped one's carriage in honour of the 
great day, making sure that the blinds and other fittings are exactly right, and has set out for 
the ceremony confident that one presents a fairly elegant appearance to the world, it is most 
unpleasant to see a near-by carriage that is superior to one's own, and one wonders why it had 
to appear at just that place. How much more galling must it be for someone who is travelling in 
a really shabby carriage! 

At the time of the Festival, when the carriages of the young noblemen go up and down the 
avenue, it really makes one's heart pound with excitement if one of them pushes its way 
between the others and stops close to one's own. I remember one year when, wishing to be 
sure of a good view, I hurried my servants and set out early in the morning. As a result I had to 
wait a long time for the procession to arrive. The suffocating heat added to my impatience, and 
I moved about restlessly in my carriage. I was just standing up to stretch myself when I saw a 
group of about eight carriages moving quickly along the avenue, one directly behind the other. 
They came from the direction of the High Priestess's palace and the passengers were senior 
courtiers. Assistant Officials of the Emperor's Private Office, Controllers, Minor Counsellors, and 
other gentlemen who were to attend the High Priestess's banquet as extra guests. It was a 
delightful surprise to find that things had already started. 

The senior courtiers ordered that dishes of watered rice be served to some of the more 
distinguished outriders at the head of the procession. Servants came down to the galleries, and 
held the horses by the bridles. Then those of the outriders whose fathers were important men 
partook of the watered rice. It was a pleasant scene, but I felt rather sorry for the lesser riders. 

When the High Priestess's palanquin was carried along the avenue, I enjoyed seeing how all the 
people pulled down the blinds of their carriages, hastily raising them as soon as the High 
Priestess had passed. 

Now a carriage came and stood directly in front of mine. I complained bitterly, but the 
attendants paid no attention and simply said, "Why shouldn't we stay here?" Not knowing how 
to argue with such men, I sent a message to the owner of the carriage. It was really rather an 
amusing situation. 14481 

Although the carriages were already squeezed together tightly new ones kept arriving. The 
passengers were people of high rank, accompanied by numerous attendants who travelled in 
carriages behind them. I was wondering how they could possibly find room when I saw the 
outriders leap off their horses and briskly force the other carriages to move back. I was most im 
pressed by the way in which they managed to get their masters' carriages, and then those of 

the attendants, into the spaces that had been cleared; but it was rather pathetic to observe the 
owners of the simple carriages as they harnessed their oxen and jogged along, looking for some 
new place. The grander carriages, of course, could not be treated in such a cavalier fashion. 

Though there were many splendid carriages in the crowd, I also noticed quite a few that had an 
ugly, rustic look and whose humble occupants were forever summoning their servants and 
giving them their babies to hold. 

129. There was a Man in the Corridor 

"There was a man in the corridor early this morning who had no business to be here," I heard 
one of the ladies-in-waiting say. "His servant was holding an umbrella over him when he left." I 
was listening to her story with interest when suddenly I realized that she was talking about a 
visitor of mine. He was admittedly a gentleman of rather low rank, but he was perfectly 
acceptable and there was no reason why I should not receive him. I was still feeling rather put 
out when a letter came from Her Majesty, with a message that I was to reply at once. Opening 
it in great excitement, I found a drawing of a large umbrella. One could see nothing of the 
person underneath except the fingers round the handle. Below were written the words, "Since 
dawn first shed its light over Mount Mikasa's peak." [4491 

Knowing that the Empress attached the greatest importance to our behaviour even in very 
trivial affairs, I had been hoping that no one would tell her about this somewhat embarrassing 
and disagreeable incident. Now I realized that she had in fact heard the rumour. I was 
dismayed, yet at the same time amused, and, taking another piece of paper, I drew a picture of 
rain falling heavily and wrote underneath. 

My name, though innocent of rain. 

Has long been spattered by unfounded tales. 

"So it must all be a matter of wet clothes," I added and sent the message to the Empress, who 
laughingly told the story to Lady Ukon and some of the other gentlewomen. 

130. When the Empress Was Staying in the Third 

Ward When the Empress was staying in the Third Ward, a palanquin arrived full of irises for the 
Festival of the Fifth Day and Her Majesty was presented with herbal balls from the Palace. The 
Mistress of the Robes and a few of the younger ladies pre pared special balls, which they 
attached to the clothing of the Princess Imperial and of the little Prince. [451] Then other very 
pretty herbal balls arrived from other palaces. Someone also brought a green-wheat cake; [452] I 
presented it to Her Majesty on the elegant lid of an inkstone on which I had first spread a sheet 

of thin green paper carrying the words, "This has come from across the fence." The Empress 
tore off a piece of the paper and wrote the following splendid poem: 

Even on this festive day. 

When all are seeking butterflies and flowers. 

You and you alone can see 

What feelings hide within my heart. 

131. Captain Narinobu Has an Amazing Memory 

Captain Narinobu has an amazing memory for voices. When several people are conversing, it is 
usually impossible to tell who is who unless one is very familiar with their manner of speaking. 
Men in particular have difficulty in recognizing people from their voices or their looks, and it is 
amazing how Narinobu can identify people even when they are speaking in hushed tones. 

132.1 Have Never Come across Anyone with Such Keen Ears 

I have never come across anyone with such keen ears as Masamitsu, the Minister of the 
Treasury. [4531 1 believe he could hear the sound of a mosquito's eyelash falling on the floor. 

Once during my stay in the west wing of the Empress's Office, Masamitsu was in the room 
when I was having a talk with the new Captain of the Inner Palace Guards (the Great Minister's 
adopted son). "What do you think about paintings on fans?" murmured someone who was 
standing near the Captain. "Don't answer," I whispered. "That man over there will soon be 
leaving. Wait until he has gone." My voice was so soft that the Captain himself could not hear 
me. "What's that? What's that?" he said, straining his ears. Masamitsu, however, clapped his 
hands and cried, "Shocking! If you speak about me like that. Madam, I shall stay here all day 
long." Both the Captain and I were astounded to realize that Masamitsu had heard what I said. 

133.1 Hate Seeing a Dusty, Dirty-Looking Inkstone 

I hate seeing a dusty, dirty-looking inkstone with an inkstick that has been used in a slovenly 
way so that it is rubbed down on only one side. It also makes an unpleasant impression if 
someone puts a cap on a writing-brush whose head has become large and shaggy. 

One can judge a woman's nature by looking at her mirror, her inkstone, or any other belongings 
of this kind. Nothing gives such a neglected impression as an inlaid inkstone-case when dust has 
collected in cracks at the corners. 

It is even more important for a man to keep his writing-table in perfect order. If his inkstone- 
case is not made in several tiers, it should have two fitted boxes, and its gold lacquer design 
should be attractive without looking contrived; his inkstick, brush, and other equipment should 
all be chosen to attract attention. 

Some people seem to think that the actual appearance of their writing utensils is unimportant. 
They have a box of plain black lacquer with a cracked lid; [4541 into this they put a tiled inkstone, 
which is broken on one side and whose every crack is so embedded with dust that one feels 
that a lifetime would not be long enough to clean it properly. They rub a little ink on the stone, 
barely blackening the surface, and pour water over it all out of a celadon jug, whose tortoise¬ 
shaped spout is broken so that there is only a gaping neck. Yet they are quite content to let 
people see this unsightly collection of objects. 

When one takes another person's inkstone to practise some calligraphy or write a letter, it is 
very unpleasant if the owner says, "Would you mind not using that brush?" One feels awkward 
if one puts it down at once; yet to continue writing is sheer impudence. Since people know my 
views on this matter, they often come to borrow my brush, and I never raise any objection. 
Sometimes it will be a woman who has a poor hand yet who always wants to be writing 
something. She picks up a brush which one has used until it has acquired just the right 
hardness, and very awkwardly she soaks it in ink. "Is there anything inside this chest?" she asks 
as she starts scribbling something on the lid. Then she flings one's brush down on its side so 
that the head is immersed in the ink. Her behaviour is hateful, yet how can one bring oneself to 
tell her so? 

When one is sitting in front of someone who is writing, it is very unpleasant to be told, "Oh, 
how dark it is! Please get out of my light." I also find it painful to be scolded by someone when I 
have been peeping at his calligraphy. This sort of thing does not happen with a man one loves. 

134. Letters are Commonplace 

Letters are commonplace enough, yet what splendid things they are! When someone is in a 
distant province and one is worried about him, and then a letter suddenly arrives, one feels as 
though one were seeing him face to face. Again, it is a great comfort to have expressed one's 
feelings in a letter even though one knows it cannot yet have arrived. If letters did not exist, 
what dark depressions would come over one! When one has been worrying about something 
and wants to tell a certain person about it, what a relief it is to put it all down in a letter! Still 
greater is one's joy when a reply arrives. At that moment a letter really seems like an elixir of 

135. Shrines 

Furu, Ikuta, Tatsuta, Hanafuchi, and Mikuri. The sacred shrine of the cryptomeria. [4551 It is 
interesting that this tree should be a sign of virtue. 

The deity of Koto no Mama deserves the trust that people put in him. I enjoy knowing that this 
is the shrine "where every prayer's been glibly answered by the God". [456] 

The deity of Aridoshi. It was past his shrine that Tsurayuki was riding when his horse was taken 
ill and he was told that this was due to the anger of the God; he then dedicated a poem to the 
God whereupon his horse was cured—a delightful incident. 14571 

I wonder whether the usual explanation for the name Aridoshi is correct. 14581 Long ago there 
was an Emperor who liked only young people and who ordered that everyone over forty should 
be put to death. The older people therefore went and hid in remote provinces, leaving the 
capital to their juniors. Now there was a Captain of the Guards whose parents were both almost 
seventy. They were absolutely terrified, realizing that, if even people of forty were proscribed, 
their own position was precarious indeed. The Captain, however, a most devoted son, who 
could not live without seeing his parents at least once a day, refused to let them go off to some 
distant hiding-place. Instead he spent night after night secretly digging a hole under his house 
and, when it was finished, he made it into a room where he in stalled his parents and went to 
visit them frequently, informing the Imperial authorities and everyone else that they had dis 

(Why should His Majesty have decided on this policy? After all, he had no need to concern 
himself with people who lived quietly at home and minded their own business.) 

Since his son was a Captain, I imagine that the father was a High Court Noble or something of 
the sort. In any case he was a very clever, knowing old gentleman, and the Captain, despite his 
youth, was also able and intelligent, so that His Majesty regarded him as the outstanding young 
man of the day. 

At this time the Emperor of China was planning to capture our country by tricking His Majesty, 
and for this purpose he was constantly sending puzzles to test His Majesty's ability. On one 
occasion he sent a round, glossy, beautifully planed log about two feet long and asked, "Which 
is the base and which is the top?" 14591 Since there was absolutely no way of telling. His Majesty 
was in great distress - so much so that the young Captain felt sorry for him and told his father 
what had happened. "All you need do," said the old man, "is to go to a rapid river, hold the log 
straight up, and throw it sideways into the water. It will then turn round by itself and the end 
that faces down stream will be the top. Mark the wood accordingly and return it to the Chinese 
Emperor." The Captain went to the Palace and, pretending to have thought of a plan by himself, 
told His Majesty that he would try to solve the puzzle. Accompanied by a group of people he 
proceeded to a river, threw in the log, and made a mark on the end that faced downstream. 

The log was then sent back and turned out to be correctly marked. 

On another occasion the Chinese Emperor sent a pair of identical snakes, each about two feet 
in length, and the test was to tell which was male and which female. Since no one had the 
faintest idea, the Captain again consulted his father, who told him to place the snakes next to 
each other and to hold a long straight twig near their tails. "The one that moves its tail," he 
said, "will be the female." The son followed this advice and, as predicted, one of the snakes 
remained still while the other one moved; the Captain marked them accordingly and sent them 
back to China. 

A long time afterwards the Chinese Emperor dispatched to His Majesty a small jewel with seven 
curves and a passage that ran right through all the curves and was open at both ends. "Please 
pass a thread through the jewel," he wrote. "This is some thing that everyone in our country 
knows how to do." Outstanding craftsmen were summoned, but their skill was of no avail; 
everyone, from the High Court Nobles down, admitted defeat. Once more the Captain went to 
his father. "You must capture two large ants," said the old man. "Tie narrow threads round 
their middles and attach slightly thicker threads to the ends. Then smear some honey opposite 
one of the openings and place the ants at the opposite end." The Captain told this to His 
Majesty and two ants were duly put next to the opening. As soon as they smelt the honey, they 
started crawling through the passage and rapidly emerged at the other end. The threaded jewel 
was then returned to China, where it was decided that, after all, the inhabitants of Japan were 
clever people and there was no point in sending them any more puzzles. 

Greatly impressed by the Captain's achievement. His Majesty asked what he could do for him 
and what rank he desired. "I want no rank or office at all," declared the young man. "Grant only 
that all the old people who have gone and hidden themselves be searched out and told that 
they may safely return to the capital." "That is a simple matter," said the Emperor. The old 
people were delighted when they heard the news and the Cap tain was appointed Great 
Minister. Evidently the Captain's father became a God; for it is said that the deity of Aridoshi 
appeared in a dream one night to someone who had come on a pilgrimage and that he recited 
the following poem: 

Who is there who does not know 

That the God of Aridoshi was so named 

From the passage of the ants through a seven-curved jewel? [460) 

136. Things That Fall from the Sky 

Snow. Hail. I do not like sleet, but when it is mixed with pure white snow it is very pretty. 
Snow looks wonderful when it has fallen on a roof of cypress bark. 

When snow begins to melt a little, or when only a small amount has fallen, it enters into all the 
cracks between the bricks, so that the roof is black in some places, pure white in others - most 

I like drizzle and hail when they come down on a shingle, roof. I also like frost on a shingle roof 
or in a garden. 

137. Clouds 

I love white, purple, and black clouds, and rain clouds when they are driven by the wind. It is 
charming at dawn to see the dark clouds gradually turn white. I believe this has been de scribed 
in a Chinese poem that says something about "the tints that leave at dawn". [4611 

It is moving to see a thin wisp of cloud across a very bright moon. 

138. People Who Have Changed as much as if They had been Reborn 

Someone who has been serving as a mere maid-of-honour is appointed to be the nurse of an 
Imperial Prince. She no longer bothers with a Chinese jacket or a formal skirt, and, weaving a 
simple white dress, she lies down next to the young prince and stays with him inside his curtain- 
dais. Summoning her former colleagues, she sends them to her room with messages or gives 
them letters to deliver. Words do not suffice to describe her behaviour. 

What a splendid thing it is for a Subordinate Official 14621 in the Emperor's Private Office when he 
is promoted to the rank of Chamberlain! One cannot believe that he is the same man who last 
year in the Eleventh Month had to carry a zither during the Special Festival. When one sees him 
walking along in the company of young noblemen, one really wonders where he can have 
sprung from. This applies also to men who have been given the rank of Chamberlain after 
serving in other offices, but in their case the change is not quite so impressive. 

139. One Day, When the Snow Lay Thick on the Ground 

One day, when the snow lay thick on the ground and was still coming down heavily, I saw some 
gentlemen of the Fourth and Fifth Ranks who had a fresh complexion and a pleasant, youthful 
look. Their beautifully coloured Court robes, which they wore over their night-watch costumes, 
were, tucked up at the bottom and showed the marks of their leather belts. 14631 Their dark 
purple trousers stood out beautifully against the white snow. I could also see their under¬ 
jackets, some of scarlet, others dyed a beautiful rose-yellow. The men had opened their 
umbrellas, but since it was very windy the snow came at them from the side and they bent 

forward slightly as they walked. The sparkling white snow covered them all the way to the tips 
of their lacquered leather shoes or short clogs - a magnificent sight. 

140. Towards the End of the Eighth Month 

Towards the end of the Eighth Month I was on my way to the temple at Uzemasa 14641 when I 
saw a crowd of peasants working in the fields. The ears of rice had started to grow out and the 
men were busily reaping the plants. True indeed were the poet's words when he wrote. 

They were pulling out the sprouts. 

Now already autumn's stolen up. 14651 

Yes, it was only the other day that I had seen them planting the fields as I set out on a 
pilgrimage for Kamo, and it was already time for the harvest. 

On this occasion all the workers were men. Bending down, they pulled out the plants, seized 
them by their green roots with one hand, and cut off the ears with a knife or something of the 
sort 14661 held in their other hand. They seemed to work with such ease that I really felt like 
including their skill among "impressive things". How on earth did they manage it? I was 
fascinated to observe how they put all the plants together in bundles with the bright red ears 
on top. 

The huts inhabited by these peasants looked most peculiar. 

141. Shortly after the Twentieth of the Ninth Month 

Shortly after the twentieth of the Ninth Month I went on a pilgrimage to Hase Temple and 
spent the night in a very simple lodging. Being exhausted, I fell at once into a sound sleep. 

When I woke up late at night, the moonlight was pouring in through the window and shining on 
the bed-clothes of all the other people in the room. Its clear white brilliance moved me greatly. 
It is on such occasions that people write poems. 

142. A Family Has Finally Arranged the Marriage, 

A family has finally arranged the marriage of their daughter; but the new son-in-law stops 
visiting his wife. Then one day he runs into his father-in-law in a public place. Surely the young 
man cannot help feeling rather sorry for his wife and her family. 14671 

A certain young man, who had been adopted as son-in-law by a very powerful family, ended by 
neglecting his wife for months at a time. The wife's nurse and others called ill luck down on his 

head, and all the household spoke strongly against him. In the First Month of the following 
year, however, he was appointed Chamberlain. "This is really going to surprise everyone," 
people said. "How on earth could he get the promotion when he is on such bad terms with his 
wife's family?" Reports of this gossip must certainly have reached his ears. 

In the Sixth Month the young Chamberlain, elegantly attired in over-trousers of silk damask, a 
glossy white under-robe lined, with dark red, and a short-sleeved black jacket, was among the 
crowd of people who attended a recitation of the Eight Lessons. It so happened that his 
carriage was standing close to that of the girl whom he had forsaken - so close, in fact, that he 
could have hung the cord of his jacket over the kite's tail 14681 of her carriage. "I wonder how she 
will take it," said one of the ladies in the girl's suite, and they all felt very sorry for her. Yet the 
young man evidently did not care in the slightest about his wife's pathetic situation or about 
what people were thinking; for afterwards it was reported that he had sat in his carriage with 
an expression of complete indifference. 

143. To Feel That One is Disliked by Others 

To feel that one is disliked by others is surely one of the saddest things in the world, and no 
one, however foolish, could wish such a thing on himself. Yet everywhere, whether it the 
Palace or at home in the bosom of the family, there are some people who are naturally liked 
and others who are not. 

Not only among people of good birth, where it goes without saying, but even among 
commoners, children who are adored by their parents naturally attract the attention of 
outsiders, and everyone makes a great fuss over them. If they are attractive children, it is only 
natural that their parents should dote on them. How could it be otherwise? But, if the children 
have nothing particular to recommend them, one can only assume that such devotion comes 
merely from the fact of being parents. 

I imagine that there can be nothing so delightful as to be loved by everyone - one's parents, 
one's master, and all the people with whom one is on close terms. 

144. Men Really Have Strange Emotions 

Men really have strange emotions and behave in the most bizarre ways. Sometimes a man will 
leave a very pretty woman to marry an ugly-one. Surely a gentleman who frequents the Palace 
should choose as his love the prettiest girl of good family he can find. Though she may be of 
such high standing that he cannot hope to make her his wife, he should, if he is really impressed 
by the girl, languish for her unto death. 

Sometimes, too, a man will become so fascinated by a girl of whom he has heard favourable 
reports that he will do everything in his power to marry her even though they have never even 

I do not understand how a man can possibly love a girl whom other people, even those of her 
own sex, find ugly. [4691 

I remember a certain woman who was both attractive and good-natured and who furthermore 
had excellent hand-writing. Yet when she sent a beautifully written poem to the man of her 
choice, he replied with some pretentious jottings and did not even bother to visit her. She wept 
endearingly, but he was in different and went to see another woman instead. Everyone, even 
people who were not directly concerned, felt indignant about this callous behaviour, and the 
woman's family was much grieved. The man himself, however, showed not the slightest pity. 

145. Sympathy is the Most Splendid of All Qualities 

Sympathy is the most splendid of all qualities. This is especially true when it is found in men, 
but it also applies to women. Compassionate remarks, of the type "How sad for you!" to 
someone who has suffered a misfortune or "I can imagine what he must be feeling" about a 
man who has had some sorrow, are bound to give pleasure, however casual and perfunctory 
they may be. If one's remark is addressed to someone else and re peated to the sufferer, it is 
even more effective than if one makes it directly. The unhappy person will never forget one's 
kindness and will be anxious to let one know how it has moved him. 

If it is someone who is close to one and who expects sympathetic inquiries, he will not be 
especially pleased, since he is merely receiving his due; but a friendly remark passed on to less 
inti mate people is certain to give pleasure. This all sounds simple enough, yet hardly anyone 
seems to bother. Altogether it seems as if men and women with good heads rarely have good 
hearts. Yet I suppose there must be some who are both clever and kind. 

146. It is Absurd of People to Get Angry 

It is absurd of people to get angry because one has gossiped about them. How can anyone be 
so simple as to believe that he is free to find fault with others while his own foibles are passed 
over in silence? Yet when someone hears that he has been discussed unfavourably he is always 
outraged, and this I find most un attractive. 

If I am really close to someone, I realize that it would be hurt ing to speak badly about him and 
when the opportunity for gossip arises, I hold my peace. In all other cases, however, I freely 
speak my mind and make everyone laugh. 

147. Features That I Particularly Like 

Features that I particularly like in someone's face continue to give a thrill of delight however 
often I see the person. With pictures it is different. If I look at them too often, they cease to 
attract me; indeed, I never so much as glance at the beautiful paintings on the screen that 
stands near my usual seat. 

There is something really fascinating about beautiful faces. Though an object such as a vase or a 
fan may be ugly in general, there is always one particular part that one can gaze at with 
pleasure. One would expect this to apply to faces also; but, alas, there is nothing to recommend 
an ugly face. 

148. Pleasing Things 

Finding a large number of tales that one has not read before. Or acquiring the second volume of 
a tale whose first volume one has enjoyed. But often it is a disappointment. 

Someone has torn up a letter and thrown it away. Picking up the pieces, one finds that many of 
them can be fitted together. 

One has had an upsetting dream and wonders what it can mean. In great anxiety one consults a 
dream-interpreter, who informs one that it has no special significance. 

A person of quality is holding forth about something in the past or about a recent event that is 
being widely discussed. 

Several people are gathered round him, but it is oneself that he keeps looking at as he talks. 

A person who is very dear to one has fallen ill. One is miserably worried about him even if he 
lives in the capital and far more so if he is in some remote part of the country. What a pleasure 
to be told that he has recovered! 

I am most pleased when I hear someone I love being praised or being mentioned approvingly 
by an important person. 

A poem that someone has composed for a special occasion or written to another person in 
reply is widely praised and copied by people in their notebooks. Though this is something that 
has never yet happened to me, I can imagine how pleasing it must be. 

A person with whom one is not especially intimate refers to an old poem or story that is 
unfamiliar. Then one hears it being mentioned by someone else and one has the pleasure of 
recognizing it. Still later, when one comes across it in a book, one thinks, "Ah, this is it!" and 
feels delighted with the person who first brought it up. 

I feel very pleased when I have acquired some Michinoku paper, or some white, decorated 
paper, or even plain paper if it is nice and white. 

A person in whose company one feels awkward asks one to supply the opening or closing line of 
a poem. If one happens to recall it, one is very pleased. Yet often on such occasions one 
completely forgets something that one would normally know. 

I look for an object that I need at once, and I find it. Or again, there is a book that I must see 
immediately; I turn everything upside down, and there it is. What a joy! 

When one is competing in an object match 14701 (it does not matter what kind), how can one help 
being pleased at winning? 

I greatly enjoy taking in someone who is pleased with himself and who has a self-confident 
look, especially if he is a man. It is amusing to observe him as he alertly waits for my next 
repartee; but it is also interesting if he tries to put me off my guard by adopting an air of calm 
indifference as if there were not a thought in his head. 

I realize that it is very sinful of me, but I cannot help being pleased when someone I dislike has a 
bad experience. 

It is a great pleasure when the ornamental comb that one has ordered turns out to be pretty. 

I am more pleased when something nice happens to a person I love than when it happens to 

Entering the Empress's room and finding that ladies-in waiting are crowded round her in a tight 
group, I go next to a pillar which is some distance from where she is sitting. What a delight it is 
when Her Majesty summons me to her side so that all the others have to make way! 

149. One Day, When Her Majesty Was Surrounded by Several Ladies 

One day, when Her Majesty was surrounded by several ladies, I remarked in connexion with 
something that she had said, "There are times when the world so exasperates me that I feel I 
cannot go on living in it for another moment and I want to dis appear for good. But then, if I 
happen to obtain some nice white paper, Michinoku paper, or white decorated paper, I decide 
that I can put up with things as they are a little longer. Or, if I can spread out a finely woven, 
green straw mat and examine the white bordering with its vivid black patterns, I somehow feel 
that I cannot turn my back on this world, and life actually seems precious to me. 

"It really doesn't take much to console you," said the Empress, laughing. "I wonder what sort of 
a person it was who gazed at the moon on Mount Obasute." 14711 

The ladies who were in attendance also teased me. "You've certainly found a cheap prayer for 
warding off evil," they said. 

Some time later, when I was staying at home and absorbed in various petty worries, a 
messenger brought me twenty rolls of magnificent paper from Her Majesty. "Come back 
quickly," she wrote, adding, "I am sending you this because of what you told me the other day. 
It seems to be of poor quality, however, and I am afraid you will not be able to use it for 
copying the Sutra of Longevity." [472] It delighted me that Her Majesty should have remembered 
something that I myself had completely forgotten. Even if an ordinary person had sent me the 
present, I should have been overjoyed. How much more pleasing when it came from the 
Empress herself! I was so excited that I could not frame a proper reply, but simply sent Her 
Majesty this poem: 

Thanks to the paper that the Goddess gave. 

My years will now be plenteous as the crane's. [4731 

"Make sure that the Empress is asked the following," I told the messenger. "Am I expecting too 
many years?" My reward for the messenger, a general maid from the Table Room, was an 
unlined green costume. 

Then I immediately used the paper I had received to write my collection of notes. [4741 1 felt a 
glow of delight and all my worries began to disappear. 

A couple of days later a messenger dressed in red arrived with a straw mat. "Here you are," he 
said. "And who may you be?" said my maid severely. "Such impudence!" However, the man 
simply put down the mat and left. I told the maid to ask him where he came from, but he had 
already disappeared. She brought me the mat, which was an unusually beautiful one with a 
splendid white border, of the type used by high dignitaries. I felt it must be the Empress who 
had sent it, but as I was not quite sure I told someone to look for the messenger. Everyone was 
greatly puzzled, but I did not think the matter was worth discussing since the messenger was 
nowhere to be found. [4751 It occurred to me that, if he had delivered the mat to the wrong 
place, he would be sure to come back and say so. I should have liked to send someone to Her 
Majesty's palace to discover the truth of the affair. Then I decided that the mystery must be 
deliberate and that the mat could only have come from the Empress. This thought filled me 
with joy. Having heard nothing further after two days, I knew there could be no doubt about 
the matter, and I sent a message to Lady Sakyo telling her what had happened. "Has any of this 
come to your ears?" I asked. "Please inform me secretly of what you have heard. In any case do 
not let anyone know that I have asked you." 

"Her Majesty did it all in great secret," was Lady Sakyo's reply. "On no account tell anyone now 
or later that I informed you." 

Delighted that everything I had suspected was now clear, I wrote a letter, telling the messenger 
to lay it on the balustrade in Her Majesty's palace when no one was looking. In his nervous 
ness, however, he placed it in such a way that it fell off the side and landed under the stairs. 

150. On about the Twentieth of the Second Month 

On about the twentieth of the Second Month His Excellency the Chancellor ordered that a 
Dedication of the Full Canon of the Sutras take place in the temple known as Shakuzen in Hoko 
Palace. [476] It was arranged that Her Majesty should attend the service as well as the Empress 
Dowager and, on the first of the month, she proceeded to the Palace of the Second Ward. [477] It 
was late at night when we arrived and, since I was tired, I went directly to bed. 

When I got up the next morning, the sun was shining brightly and I noticed that everything in 
the Palace was spick and span, beginning with the bamboo blinds, which looked as if they had 
only been hung on the previous day. I was delighted by all I saw, and wondered when they had 
managed to decorate the rooms so elegantly and to install the lion and the Korean dog. 

At the foot of the stairs leading into the garden there was a cherry tree covered with what 
appeared to be magnificent blossoms. I was surprised that it should have bloomed so early, and 
it occurred to me that, if the cherry was already out, the plum trees must be at their height. 
Then I realized that the flowers were artificial. [4781 Their tint, however, was in no way inferior to 
that of real blossoms. What skill must have been needed to make them look so life-like! It 
saddened me to think that they would all be ruined if it started to rain. The palace had been 
constructed on a site previously occupied by several small houses, and the trees in the garden 
did not show to full advantage; the building itself, however, had an immediate appeal. 

In the morning His Excellency, the Chancellor, arrived to call on the Empress. He was wearing 
bluish-grey trousers of heavily figured silk and a cherry-blossom cloak, over three scarlet robes. 
The Empress and the other ladies were dressed in the most splendid costumes made of glossy, 
plum-blossom material, some with heavily figured designs, others decorated with embroidery. 
On top they wore Chinese jackets of light green, willow green, or red plum-blossom. 

Watching the Chancellor as he sat down in front of the Empress and started talking to her, I 
wished that I could somehow arrange to let outsiders have a glimpse of the scene, so that they 
might observe how perfectly she made her replies. 

"What more could Your Majesty desire?" said the Chancellor, looking towards the Empress's 
ladies-in-waiting. "Really, I can't help feeling envious when I see all these splendid women 
seated round you side by side. There's not a single one of them who is not well-born. Oh, how 
magnificent to be attended by such ladies! I hope you are kind to them. If they knew what you 
were really like, I doubt whether they would crowd into your service as they do. Despite your 
shamefully mean nature I have served you loyally since you were born. And never once have 
you given me so much as a piece of cast-off clothing... Yes, I might as well tell you openly what I 

We were all greatly amused and burst out laughing. "I'm being quite serious," said the 
Chancellor. "How dare you laugh at me?" ... 

Several of the women gathered to talk about the costumes and fans they would use on the day 
of the ceremony, each being determined to outdo the others in elegance. In the midst of the 
discussion, however, one of them exclaimed, "Why should I take so much trouble? I shall simply 
appear as I am." "Oh dear, there she goes again!" said the others in a rather spiteful tone. 

In the evenings many of the ladies-in-waiting went home to make their preparations for the 
great event; under the circumstances Her Majesty could not very well stop them from leaving 
the palace. The Chancellor's wife called on the Empress every day and even at night. His 
Excellency's young daughters also paid regular visits, and a messenger came daily from the 
Imperial Palace. In fact the Empress was surrounded by people, and it was all very pleasant. 

As the days went by, the condition of the cherry-blossoms in front of the palace did not 
improve, and the sun gave them an unpleasant, withered look. One morning, after it had rained 
all night, I got up early and went into the garden. By this time the blossoms were really not 
worth looking at, and I remarked that they could hardly be compared to the faces of tearful 
lovers forced to say farewell. [4791 Her Majesty overheard me. "What's happened to them?" she 
said in surprise. "I know it was raining last night." Just then a crowd of attendants and servants 
arrived from the Chancellor's residence. They rushed up to the tree and tore down all the 
blossoms. "His Excellency said we should remove them while it was still dark so that no one 
would see us," I heard one of the attendants say. "The sun's already out and it's going to be 
awkward. Come on. We'd better do it quickly." I was most amused and, if they had been people 
of quality, I should have liked to ask them whether they had thought of Kanezumi's poem, "Let 
him tell me what he will". [4801 Instead I simply inquired who they were and said they had no 
right to steal the blossoms. The men ran away with much laughter, gathering speed as they 
went and dragging the branches behind them. After they had gone, I realized that the 
Chancellor's idea 14811 had been a very happy one indeed. After all, what pleasure would there 
have been in seeing a mass of wet blossoms coiled round the tree and sticking to the branches? 
Then I went back inside the palace. 

Presently a man arrived from the Housekeeping Office to open the lattices, and some women 
from the Office of Grounds came to clean the rooms. When they had finished. Her Majesty got 
up. She noticed at once that the blossoms had disappeared. "Oh dear!" she said. "Where have 
they all gone? I heard you say some thing about thieves earlier this morning, but I thought they 
had taken only a few of the branches. Did you see who they were?" 

"No, Your Majesty," I replied. "It was still too dark to see anything properly. I could only make 
out some white forms moving about in the garden. I thought they might be stealing the 
blossoms, so I called out to them." 

"All the same," said the Empress with a laugh, "why should any one want to steal cherry- 
blossoms? I am sure it must have been His Excellency who ordered some of his men to remove 
the branches secretly." 

"Oh no," said I, "that doesn't seem at all likely. It must have been the spring breeze." 

"If you go on speaking like that," said the Empress, "it means you have something to hide. No 
one has stolen those blossoms. It was the spring rain." [4821 One could hardly be surprised that 
Her Majesty should have guessed the truth, yet I was greatly impressed. 

Since the Chancellor was about to arrive, I withdrew into the back of the room, knowing that he 
would find my dishevelled "morning face" extremely unseasonal. [4831 As soon as he entered, I 
heard him explain in a surprised tone, "Good heavens! The blossoms have disappeared? How 
could you let them be stolen? What sleepyheads you all are not to have noticed it." 

"And yet," I murmured, "you must certainly have known about the theft before I did." 

He caught my words instantly. "Ah," he said, laughing loudly, "so you knew about it. I expected 
as much. Most people who went into the garden wouldn't have seen that anything was missing. 
I was sure that, if anyone noticed, it would be you or Saisho." 

"Yes," said the Empress with a charming smile, "Shonagon knew who was responsible. But she 
pretended to believe that it was the spring breeze. And you. Sir, have been telling us a lie: [4841 
Then in the most elegant way imaginable she recited the lines. 

The time must now have come 

To till the rice fields in the hills. [4851 

"How extremely annoying of my men to let themselves be seen!" said the Chancellor. "I 
particularly told them to be careful. It really is a misery to have such fools in one's service... But 
it was a very pleasant idea of Shonagon's to have invented the spring breeze." And he recited a 
few words from the poem about the rice fields. 

"Yes indeed," said the Empress, "it was quite ingenious of Shonagon, considering that it was 
only a simple remark. [4861 Then she added with a smile, "I can't help wondering what it must 
have been like to see those men stealing the flowers this morning." 

"Shonagon understood everything from the beginning," said the Counsellor's little boy. "It was 
she who pointed out how sad it would be if the blossoms were drenched by the rain." I was 
amused to see how annoyed the Chancellor looked when he heard this. 

Towards the ninth of the month I announced that I was returning home. "Don't go yet," said 
the Empress. "Wait until the ceremony is a little nearer." But I left the Palace all the same. Then 
at about noon on an unusually calm, sunny day I received the following message from Her 
Majesty: "Have the flowers laid bare their hearts? 14871 You must not fail to let me know." 

"It would be premature to speak of autumn," I replied, "yet I feel myself ascending nine times 
towards you in the night.". 

On the evening when the Empress set out for the Smaller Palace of the Second Ward, 14881 no 
arrangements had been made about the seating in the carriages, and each of the women 

rushed to secure a place for herself. I and three of the more important ladies-in-waiting stood 
watching this unpleasant scene. "What a chaotic way of getting into carriages!" I said, laughing. 
"It's as bad as the Return Procession. [489] They're all in such a state that they look as if they 
might collapse at any moment. Well, it can't be helped. If there's no room for us in these 
carriages. Her Majesty is bound to hear why we haven't reached the Second Ward and she'll 
send another for us." 

When all the other women had pushed themselves into the carriages, a gentleman from the 
Office of the Empress's House hold asked whether anyone was left. "Yes," I replied, "we're still 
here. He came up and asked our names. "Very strange!" he exclaimed when we had told him. "I 
thought that everyone had found a place by now. Why are you ladies so late? We were on the 
point of putting the serving-women into this last carriage. Really, I find your behaviour most 
peculiar." He ordered that a carriage be pulled up. 

"If that's how it is," I said, "put the servants in first as you planned, and we can go later." 

"Outrageous!" said the gentleman. "What an unpleasant nature you have!" [4901 

The other ladies and I then stepped into the carriage that had been intended for the serving- 
women. We laughed to see how dark it was inside. 14911 

When we reached the palace in the Second Ward, we found that the Empress's palanquin had 
arrived early and that every thing had been arranged for her. Since Her Majesty had ordered 
that I be brought into her presence as soon as I arrived, Ukyo, Kosakon, and some of the other 
young ladies had been examining each of the carriages; but there had been no sign of me. The 
passengers went to the Empress's room in groups of four 14921 and gathered round her. "How 
odd!" she exclaimed after some time. "Why is Shonagon not among you?" No one could 

When the last carriage was drawn up outside the palace, the young ladies finally saw me. "Why 
are you so late?" they said. "Her Majesty hasn't stopped asking about you." As they led me into 
her presence, I looked about the palace and was greatly impressed. It was amazing that in such 
a short time things could have been arranged to look as if the Empress had lived there for years. 

Why didn't you come sooner?" said Her Majesty, when she saw me. "I've been asking everyone 
about you." As I did not answer, the ladies who had travelled with me laughed loudly and said, 
"It really couldn't be helped. Your Majesty. People who travel last can't very well arrive early. 

As it was, we almost missed that last carriage, but the serving-women took pity on us and let us 
use it. And what a dark, wretched carriage it was!" 

"I am rather surprised at the man who was in charge of the travelling arrangements," said the 
Empress. "Why didn't you say something? I can see that those of you who are unfamiliar with 
these things might hesitate to speak, but surely one of you, Uemo for instance, could have tried 
to help. 

"But, Your Majesty," said Uemo, "why did they all have to push ahead of each other like that?" 

It occurred to me how unpleasant it must be for the ladies who were standing near by to hear 

"Indeed," said Her Majesty with a look of annoyance, "I see no excuse for such undignified 
behaviour. The seating arrangements should have been carefully planned in advance." 

"I'm sure it was my fault," I said, trying to smooth things over. "I took a long time coming from 
my room, and that made them all very impatient." 

Hearing that on the following day Her Majesty would be attending the recitation of the newly 
dedicated sutras, I went to visit her in her room in the evening. On my way I looked into the hall 
at the northern end of the Southern Palace. Several lamps were standing on trays, and by their 
light I could see that the room was full of women. Some were seated behind screens in small 
groups of three or four; others had retired alone behind curtains of state; still others had 
gathered to make their toilet, to attach the cords to their formal skirts or to sew their robes, 
which they had arranged in piles on the floor. As I observed them elaborately arranging their 
hair, it occurred to me that I would probably never again see anything as splendid as the next 
day's ceremony. 

"I understand that Her Majesty is to set out tomorrow morning at the Hour of the Tiger," [493] 
said one of the ladies-in-waiting when she saw me. "And why didn't you come until now? Some 
one sent you a fan with a message to ask what you were doing." 

I had already put on my full ceremonial robes so that I might be ready in case the Empress did 
leave as early as the Hour of the Tiger, but the sun rose and there was still no sign of her. Then, 
hearing that the carriages were to be brought up to the western wing of the palace near the 
part of the hall that was covered by Chinese eaves, we all went out to the corridor. The ladies-in 
waiting who had recently come into service and were un accustomed to ceremonies of this kind 
looked very nervous. Her Majesty now proceeded to the western wing, where the Chancellor 
was residing, and together with five other ladies (Lady Shigeisha, the Chancellor's third and 
fourth daughters, the Chancellor's wife, and his sister-in-law) she seated herself behind some 
blinds to watch us getting into the carriages. 

As each carriage arrived at the entrance, the Major Counsellor and the Middle Captain of the 
Third Rank, [4941 one on either side, rolled up the outer and inner blinds and helped the ladies. If 
we had all been able to stay closely together, we should not have been so conspicuous, but as it 
was our names were called out individually from a list and we had to go forward in groups of 
four. Presently my turn came and I walked towards the carriage that had been assigned to me. 
To say that I was terribly un comfortable would be an understatement. The thought of the 
Empress watching me from behind the blinds and possibly thinking that I was ugly made me so 
miserable that I started perspiring and felt that my beautifully arranged hair was stand ing on 
end. When I had finally managed to get past the blinds and came close to the carriage, I saw to 

my extreme embarrassment that two handsome young gentlemen (the Counsellor and the 
Captain) were standing by the entrance, smiling broadly. It was just like a dream. Nevertheless I 
managed to reach the carriage without collapsing. I am afraid I cannot have cut a very fine 
figure, but I did my best. 

When we had all got into our carriages, they were pulled out into the Second Avenue and left 
there, with the shafts resting on the trestles. They looked splendid, standing one behind the 
other as on the occasion of some grand festival, and I felt my heart pounding at the thought 
that the onlookers must be as impressed as I was. Several men of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth 
Ranks strolled up to the carriages and addressed elegant re marks to the ladies inside. 

The Chancellor, in company with all the senior courtiers and many other gentlemen, now came 
out to greet the Empress Dowager. Since Her Majesty's palanquin was not to leave until the 
Empress Dowager had passed the palace, I expected that there would be a tiresome wait, but it 
was not long before the procession arrived. There were fifteen carriages in all, with the 
Empress Dowager's Chinese-style carriage in front followed by four that were occupied by 
nuns. Through the back entrances, one could see the nuns' crystal rosaries, grey stoles, and 
other vestments. The blinds were still lowered, but I could make out the light violet colour of 
the inner hangings, which were a slightly darker shade towards the edges. In the remaining ten 
carriages sat ladies-in-waiting, elegantly dressed in Chinese jackets of cherry-blossom material, 
skirts of scarlet or occasionally light violet, and coats of stiff silk. Though there was a bright sun, 
the sky was covered with mist, giving a pale green effect. Against this light the colours of the 
ladies' Court robes made a splendid combination, even surpassing in elegance the varied 
designs of their Chinese jackets. 

The Chancellor, his younger brother, and the other gentlemen of his suite now came out to pay 
their respects to the Empress Dowager. It was a magnificent sight, and we were all wild with 
admiration. No doubt the men for their part were impressed by our twenty carriages, which 
stood in a row along the avenue. 

Her Majesty's palanquin had still not left, and I was becoming impatient. Finally eight Palace 
Girls were led up on horseback, wearing blue formal skirts shaded darker towards the edges, 
waistband ribbons, and shoulder sashes, which all fluttered attractively in the breeze. One of 
the girls called Buzen was on intimate terms with Shigemasa, the doctor. [4951 Noticing that she 
had on a pair of grape-coloured trousers, Yamanoi, the Major Counsellor, laughed and said, "So 
they have allowed Shigemasa to wear the forbidden colour?" [4961 

The row of horses on which the Palace Girls were riding came to a halt, and just then the 
Empress's palanquin appeared. The Empress Dowager's retinue had seemed splendid enough, 
but it was as nothing compared to this new sight. By now the sun was high in the sky, making 
the onion-flower 14971 decoration, the glossy curtains, and everything else glitter brilliantly. The 
attendants pulled the cords and the palanquin moved off. As the ladies watched its curtains 
swaying gently with the motion, they were so impressed that their hair literally stood on end; 

later even those who had been most beautifully groomed complained how messy their hair had 
become. It was indeed a fantastically impressive moment, and I too was overcome with awe, 
wondering how it was possible that I should be in daily attendance on such a magnificent 
Empress. After the palanquin had passed, the attendants came forward and yoked the oxen to 
our carriages. We then started moving along the avenue behind the Empress, our hearts full of 
the most inexpressible joy and pride. 

When Her Majesty reached Shakuzen Temple, a group of musicians by the great outer gate 
played Korean and Chinese music, [4981 and there were performances of the Lion Dance and the 
Dance of the Korean Dog. So loud was the sound of the thirteen-pipe flute and the tabor that I 
became quite giddy. I wondered to which of the Buddha's realms I had been wafted and felt 
that I was floating up into the sky with the music. 

Presently the procession entered the temple enclosure, where I saw numerous pavilions with 
brocade curtains, closed off by bright green blinds and surrounded by hangings. It was all so 
splendid that I could not believe we were still in this world of ours. Our carriages were pulled up 
before the Empress's gallery, where the Major Counsellor and the Captain, who were still on 
duty, asked us to get out as quickly as possible. I had been embarrassed enough when stepping 
into the carriage; but here things were still more awkward, since it was brighter and we were 
more exposed than we had been at the palace. Nevertheless I was able to cast an admiring 
glance at Korechika, the Major Counsellor, as he stood there looking imposingly handsome in 
an under-robe whose train seemed far too long for such a narrow place. Raising the carriage 
blinds, he told us to make haste. I felt that the artificial locks, which I had tucked together with 
my own hair under my Chinese jacket, [4991 were in disorder and must look very strange. It was 
so light in the temple enclosure that one could easily distinguish the shades of blackness and 
redness in our hair. All this made me extremely embarrassed, and at first I could not bring 
myself to step out of the carriage. "Please get out before me," I asked the lady who was sitting 
in the back; but evidently she was just as shy as I, for she turned to the Major Counsellor, who 
was standing directly outside the carriage, and said, "Would you be so good as to step back a 
little? You are too kind to us." 

"How timid you ladies are!" he remarked with a laugh as he stepped back a few paces. Since we 
still hesitated, he again walked up to us. "It was Her Majesty who told me to come," he 
explained. "She said I should get you out of the carriages in such a way that people like 
Munetaka would not see you. [5001 That's the only reason I'm here." He then helped us out of 
the carriage and led us to the Empress. I felt very grateful to her for having given these 
instructions on our behalf. 

As I approached the Empress, I noticed that about eight ladies who had travelled in the first 
carriages, were installed at the edge of the veranda, from where they could have a good view of 
the ceremony. Her Majesty was seated on a platform about two feet high. "I have brought you 
Shonagon and the others," announced Korechika, "and I did not let anyone get a look at them." 
The Empress said she wanted to see us and emerged from her curtain of state. She had not 

changed her clothes since I saw her before and was still wearing the same Chinese jacket; but 
she was dazzlingly beautiful. Where else would one ever see a red Chinese robe like this? 
Beneath it she wore a willow-green robe of Chinese damask, five layers of unlined robes of 
grape-coloured silk, a robe of Chinese gauze with blue prints over a plain white background, 
and a ceremonial skirt of elephant-eye [5011 silk. I felt that nothing in the world could compare 
with the beauty of these colours. 

How do I look today?" Her Majesty asked me. "Magnificent," I replied, realizing at once how 
inadequate a response this was. 

"I am afraid you must have become rather impatient waiting for my palanquin," she said. "We 
were delayed by the Master of the Household. [502] He was afraid that if people saw him 
accompanying me in the same under-robe that he had worn when he was with the Empress 
Dowager there might be some criticism. So he ordered his women to sew a new under-robe, 
and that is why we were so late. What a taste he has for elegance!" 

It was very bright on the gallery and I could see Her Majesty's hair more closely than usual. I 
was absolutely fascinated by the beauty of her front parting, which was combed at a slight 
angle pointing towards the ornament that held up the hair over her forehead. 

A pair of three-foot curtains of state had been placed together in such a way that I was 
separated from the other ladies. A mat had been spread behind the curtains, its borders 
parallel to the lower beam of the gallery. On it were seated Lady Chunagon, the daughter of 
Captain Tadagimi (the Chancellor's uncle), and Lady Saisho, the granddaughter of the Minister 
of the Right. 

"Please go to the gentlemen's hall," said the Empress to Lady Saisho, "and see what is 

Saisho, however, realized what Her Majesty had in mind. 

"Surely there is enough room for all three of us to sit here and have a good view," she said. [503] 

"Very well then," said the Empress. She summoned me to come closer and sit on the mat. 
Seeing this, one of the ladies-in waiting who was seated on a lower level laughingly remarked 
that I was just like a page-boy who had been given special per mission to enter the Senior 
Courtiers' Chamber. "I wonder if Her Majesty is trying to be funny," said a second lady, and still 
another commented that my position was more like that of a mounted escort. Despite their 
quips, I was delighted by the honour of sitting beside Her Majesty to watch the ceremony. I 
suppose this sounds rather conceited, yet how can I remain silent about something that really 
happened? Of course I was treated far too kindly, and no doubt many knowing people of the 
type who are always ready to find fault with others maliciously blamed our gracious Empress 
for her indiscretion in befriending someone like me. And it is true that I was favoured in a way 
that a woman in my position does not deserve. 

From where I was sitting I had a splendid view of the galleries occupied by the Empress 
Dowager and the other important people. His Excellency, the Chancellor, now started a round 
of visits, going first to the gallery of the Empress Dowager, where he stayed for a while, and 
then coming to us. The two Major Counsellors and the Captain of the Third Rank had already 
arrived. The Captain was still wearing his Guards uniform with a bow and quiver at his waist, 
which suited the occasion admirably. [5041 A large group of senior courtiers and other gentlemen 
of the Fourth and Fifth Ranks whom he had brought along as an escort sat in a row next to him. 
As the Chancellor entered Her Majesty's gallery, he looked round at the occupants. The ladies 
in-waiting, including Madam, the Mistress of the Robes, were all dressed in Chinese jackets and 
formal skirts with trains; Her Excellency, the Chancellor's wife, wore a wide-sleeved Court robe 
over her skirt. 

"Ah," exclaimed the Chancellor, "you look like something out of a picture. But please don't go 
about later saying that you were uncomfortable today in your stiff clothes. [5051 And you, my 
girls," he added, turning to his third and fourth daughters, "be ready to help Her Majesty off 
with her formal skirt and train. Remember that she is the mistress of you all. It is in front of her 
gallery that the Guards have been ordered to take up their positions. Do you suppose everyone 
has such an honour?" Then he burst into tears. Everyone who saw him thought that he had 
good reason to weep, and they themselves felt tears coming to their eyes. [506] 

When the Chancellor noticed that my Chinese jacket was made of red silk with five patterns 
embroidered in cherry-coloured thread, he laughed and said, "We've suddenly found ourselves 
short of a red robe for one of the priests. I wish we could borrow that jacket of yours. It looks 
exactly like a clerical vestment. [5071 In any case I'm sure you made it by shortening a priest's 

"Yes," said Korechika, who had moved towards the rear of the gallery, "it must be the robe of 
Bishop Sei." [5081 

Bishop Ryuen wore a robe of thin, red material, a purple stole, a light mauve jacket, and a pair 
of loose trousers. The bluish tint of his shaved head made him look very attractive, and one 
could easily have taken him for the Bodhisattva Jizo. [5091 It was funny to see him surrounded by 
ladies-in-waiting. "How unpleasant for him to be among the women!" someone said with a 
laugh. "I'm sure he'd prefer to be walking along solemnly with all those priestly dignitaries." 

Matsugimi, who had accompanied his father, was brought to see us. He wore a grape-coloured 
Court cloak, a dark violet robe of beaten damask, and a jacket of plum-red material. Escorted by 
the usual crowd of gentlemen of the Fourth and Fifth Ranks, he was led into the midst of the 
ladies in the Empress's gallery. Then something went wrong and he started to cry loudly; but 
even this was very charming. 

The ceremony began. Texts of the Full Canon were placed on red lotus flowers, [510] one scroll 
on each petal, and carried by a procession of clerics. High Court Nobles, senior courtiers, 
gentlemen of the Sixth Rank, and many other gentlemen. It was most awe-inspiring. 

Next came the Great Procession round the Holy Image, and then the officiating priest appeared 
and recited the Prayer for Salvation. 15111 Later there was a performance of dances. 

After I had watched these ceremonies all day long, my eyes were aching. Towards evening a 
Chamberlain of the Fifth Rank arrived with a letter for the Empress from the Palace. A stool was 
brought out for him and placed in front of the gallery; as he sat there waiting for Her Majesty's 
reply, the Chamberlain made a very splendid sight. 

The next gentleman to arrive was Norimasa, the Secretary in the Ministry of Ceremonial. "Her 
Majesty is to return to the Palace this evening," he announced, "and I have been ordered to 
escort her. This is an Imperial Command." Norimasa then remained in the gallery, waiting for 
the Empress to leave. "First I must go to the palace in the Second Ward," she said. Just then the 
Chamberlain-Controller brought an Imperial message for the Chancellor, who, after reading it, 
told his daughter that she must do exactly what His Majesty desired. The Empress then made 
preparations to return directly to the Imperial Palace. 

Meanwhile attendants also brought Her Majesty some charming gifts and a note from the 
Empress Dowager, who referred to the "salt-kilns of Chika" [5121 and the like. 

When the ceremony was over, the Empress Dowager left; but now she was escorted by only 
about one half of the High Court Nobles and household officials who had accompanied her on 
her arrival. 15131 

The servants of the Empress's ladies-in-waiting had not been informed that Her Majesty was 
returning to the Imperial Palace, and in the evening they all went to the residence in the Second 
Ward, where they stayed until late at night waiting for their mistresses. Meanwhile in the 
Palace the ladies were waiting for their maids to bring them their night clothes. They felt 
extremely cold in their elegant ceremonial robes, to which they were un accustomed, and they 
spoke furiously, but of course to no avail, about their servants. "How could you be so stupid?" 
they asked when they finally arrived on the following morning; but they had to agree that their 
maids' explanation was entirely reason able. 

On the day after the ceremony it started raining. "This shows what a good karma [514] I must 
have," the Chancellor told the Empress. "Don't you agree?" One could well understand why he 
was so relieved. 

151. At Noon When the Sun Is Shining Brightly 

At noon when the sun is shining brightly or at night when one imagines it is the Hour of the Rat, 
[5151 it is always delightful to hear the Emperor summon his gentlemen to the Imperial 
Bedchamber when he has retired. I love to hear His Majesty playing the flute in the middle of 
the night. 15161 

152. Captain Narinobu Is a Son of His Reverend Highness 

Captain Narinobu is a son of His Reverend Highness, the Minister of Military Affairs. He is not 
only extremely hand some but has a delightful nature. I can well imagine how Kanesuke's 
daughter 15171 must have suffered when he abandoned her and she had to accompany her father 
to his post in lyo. No doubt the Captain, having heard that she was to leave at dawn, came to 
visit her on the previous night. How beautiful he must have looked in his Court cloak as he 
made his way home by the pale moonlight! 

In the past he used frequently to come and talk with me, and he would say very disagreeable 
things about people. There was in those days a certain lady-in-waiting called Hyobu 15181 who 
was scrupulous about performing abstinence and the like and who used her family name at 
Court. 15191 She had been adopted by some family like the Tairas and wanted to be known by 
their name, but the young ladies-in-waiting found it amusing always to call her by her original 

Lady Hyobu was not particularly good-looking; in fact it was hard to find anything to 
recommend her. Yet she was always pushing herself forward in the Palace. The Empress 
observed this and one day she mentioned how she disliked such behaviour. But out of malice 
everyone refrained from warning the lady. 

At this time I was living with Shikibu no Omoto in quarters that had been arranged for us in the 
Palace of the First Ward. It was a charming little room under the eaves directly opposite the 
eastern gate, and we stayed there all the time, inviting only people whom we liked. The 
Empress herself used to come and visit us. 

One rainy evening, when the Empress had said that we must all spend the night in the Palace, 
Shikibu no Omoto and I went to bed in the southern ante-room. Presently there was a loud 
knocking at the door. We agreed that it would be a nuisance to have a visitor, and pretended to 
be asleep. But then someone called my name loudly and I heard the Empress say, "Go and wake 
her. I'm sure she's only pretending." Lady Hyobu came in and tried to wake me, but I did not 
stir. Hyobu reported this to the Empress and then went out to the veranda and began a 
conversation with my visitor. I did not think this would last very long, but the night wore on and 
still they were chatting away. It seemed fairly certain that the visitor was Narinobu. What on 
earth could they be discussing all that time? I lay in bed, chuck ling to myself - something that 
the couple on the veranda could hardly have suspected. When dawn came, my visitor finally 
went home. 

"What a terrible man!" I thought. "If he ever comes again, I shall refuse to speak to him. What 
can they have found to say to each other all night?" 15201 Just then Hyobu pushed open the 
sliding-door and came in. 

On the following morning she heard Shikibu and me talking in our ante-room and joined us. "A 
man who comes in such a heavy rain-storm to visit a woman deserves some sympathy," she 

declared. "However much he may have made her worry and suffer during the past days, surely 
she should forgive him when he arrives with his clothes all drenched." 

I wondered what gave her such an idea. If a man has been visiting one night after night and 
then comes again despite a heavy downpour, it shows that he cannot bear to be separated for 
even a single evening and one has good reason to be impressed. If, on the other hand, he has 
made one worry by letting several days go by, one is bound to question his sincerity even if he 
should choose to appear on a stormy night. But no doubt people have different feelings about 
these matters. 

Narinobu is in fact devoted to a woman who has quick wits and a mind of her own, and who 
also impresses him as being kind-hearted. [5211 But he has several other attachments, not to 
mention his wife, and he cannot come very often. If he chooses such a terrible night to visit the 
woman, it can only be because he knows people will talk and praise him for his devotion. Of 
course, if he had no feeling for her at all, he would not bother to invent such stratagems. 

When it is raining, I feel absolutely miserable. I entirely forget how beautiful the weather was 
earlier in the day and everything seems hateful, whether I am in one of the beautiful galleries in 
the Palace or in a very ordinary house. Nothing gives me the slightest pleasure, and I can think 
of one thing only: when will the rain stop? 

When the moon is shining I love to receive a visitor, even if it is someone who has not come to 
see me for ten days, twenty days, a month, a year, or perhaps seven or eight years, and who 
has been inspired by the moonlight to remember our previous meetings. Even if lamina place 
where it is hopelessly difficult to receive visitors and where one is constantly in fear of being 
seen, I will allow the man to speak with me, though we may have to stand up all the time. And 
then, if it is at all possible, I will keep him with me for the night. 

Moonlight 15221 makes me think of people who are far away and also reminds me of things in the 
past - sad things, happy things, things that delighted me—as though they had just happened. I 
do not like "The Tale of Komano" in the slightest, for its language is old-fashioned and it 
contains hardly anything of interest. Yet I am always moved by the moonlight scene 15231 in 
which one of the characters recalls past events and, producing a moth-eaten fan, recites the 
line, "My horse has come this way before." 15241 

My dislike of rain is so profound that even a little shower strikes me as hateful. It only needs to 
rain and the most splendid ceremonies, occasions that I should otherwise have found delightful 
and affecting, become a pointless nuisance. Why then should I be so impressed when a man 
comes to see me dripping with rain and full of complaints? 

Captain Ochikubo (he who quarrelled with Captain Katano) is certainly an attractive character, 
and what makes one like him so much is that he visited the heroine not only on the night when 
it was raining but also on the two previous nights. 15251 (I remember that he had to wash his feet 

on arrival. How disgusting they must have been!) If he hadn't visited the lady on the previous 
nights, there would have been nothing so admirable about his coming on the rainy one. 

I am delighted when a man visits me on a very windy night. Then I really feel that he cares for 

I also like having a visitor when it is snowing. A secret visit is especially enjoyable; as one waits 
for the man, one whispers to oneself, "Can he forget?" [5261 It is very pleasant, too, when one is 
staying in a place where one can receive a visitor openly and he arrives in clothes that are cold 
and damp from the snow. He may be wearing a hunting costume, an over-robe, the yellow- 
green robes of a Chamberlain, or, best of all, a proper Court cloak; but, even if he is dressed in a 
short green robe, I am quite content so long as it has been moistened by the snow. 

In the old days Chamberlains always used to wear their yellow green robes when visiting 
women at night, and if they had got wet in the rain they would wring them out. But nowadays 
they all seem to wear their short green robes, 15271 even for daytime visits. 

How handsome the Chamberlains looked when they came dressed in yellow-green, especially 
those who were also serving as Guards officers! 

After they have heard my views on this subject, I wonder whether there will be any gentlemen 
who refrain from visiting their ladies in the rain. 

One bright, moonlit night a messenger thrust a note into the ante-room where I was staying. 

On a sheet of magnificent scarlet paper I read the words, "There is nothing." [528] It was the 
moon light that made this so delightful; I wonder whether I would have enjoyed it at all on a 
rainy night. 

153. On One Occasion a Man 

On one occasion a man, who invariably sent me a letter after we had spent the night together, 
declared that he saw no point in our relationship and that he had nothing more to say to me. 
There was no word from him on the next day. "When dawn appeared" [5291 without the usual 
next-morning letter, I could not help feeling rather gloomy. "Well," I thought as the day 
advanced, "he really meant what he says." 

It rained very hard on the day after that. Noon came and still I had heard nothing from him: 
obviously he had forgotten all about me. Then in the evening, while I was sitting on the edge of 
the veranda, a child arrived with an open umbrella in one hand and a letter in the other. I 
opened the letter and read it with more than usual haste. "The rain that swells the water" [5301 
was the message, and I found this more charming than if he had sent me a whole sheaf of 

154. One Day the Sky, Which until Then Had Been Quite Clear 

One day the sky, which until then had been quite clear, was suddenly covered with dark clouds 
and there was a snow-storm. Feeling rather depressed, I went and looked outside: the snow 
was already lying thickly on the ground. It was still coming down heavily when I noticed a 
slender, handsome man, who looked like an after-runner and who was sheltered under an 
umbrella, arriving at the house next door. I watched with delight as he entered through the 
fence and delivered a letter. It was a knotted letter written on a sheet of pure white paper 
(either Michinoku or decorated paper); I could see that the ink-seal on the outside was frozen 
and that the dark lines of the characters became fainter towards the ends. [5311 As the lady to 
whom the letter was addressed opened it, I was able to observe that it had been knotted into a 
very narrow strip and that there were delicate indentations in the paper where it had been 
folded. The ink was extremely dark in some places, light in others, and the columns of writing, 
which covered both sides of the paper, came very close together. Even from where I was 
standing it was a great pleasure to watch the lady as she read the letter carefully, then read it 
all over again. I wondered what it actually said and, seeing her smile, became even more 
curious. I was too far away, however, to make it out; the most I could do was to guess at a few 
of the characters that were written in particularly dark ink. 

An attractive woman, whose hair tumbles loosely over her forehead, has received a letter in the 
dark. Evidently she is too impatient to wait for a lamp; instead she takes some fire-tongs, and, 
lifting a piece of burning charcoal from the brazier, laboriously reads by its pale light. It is a 
charming scene. 

155. The Thunder Guards are Awe-Inspiring 

The Thunder Guards are awe-inspiring when they appear during a violent thunderstorm. [5321 
The Major and Middle Captains and the other officers of the two Guards divisions make a 
delightful sight as they post themselves next to the lattices in the Palace. When the thunder has 
abated, one of the Major Captains orders the soldiers to "go up" or "go down". [533) 

156. One Has Taken a Roundabout Way 

One has taken a roundabout way to avoid an unlucky direction. It is late at night when one 
approaches home, and the carriage attendants walk with their heads bent to protect them 
selves against the terrible cold. Finally one arrives and pulls up a brazier. It is delightful enough 
when live embers cover the entire surface, but it is a particular pleasure to find a glowing 
ember under a covering of ash. Then one starts talking to one's companions and does not even 
notice that the fire had gone out. Often a maid will lay some fresh charcoal on top and light it; 
this annoys me greatly, though it is all right if she lights the fire in the centre. It is also very 

annoying when a maid rakes all the embers to the sides of the brazier, then piles up some new 
charcoal in the middle and places the burning embers on top. 

157. One Day, When the Snow Lay Thick on the Ground 

One day, when the snow lay thick on the ground and it was so cold that the lattices had all been 
closed, I and the other ladies were sitting with Her Majesty, chatting and poking the embers in 
the brazier. 

"Tell me, Shonagon," said the Empress, "how is the snow on Hsiang-lu peak?" [534] 

I told the maid to raise one of the lattices and then rolled up the blind all the way. Her Majesty 
smiled. I was not alone in recognizing the Chinese poem she had quoted; in fact all the ladies 
knew the lines and had even rewritten them in Japanese. Yet no one but me had managed to 
think of it instantly. 

"Yes indeed," people said when they heard the story. "She was born to serve an Empress like 

158. The Boys Employed by Masters of Divination 

The boys employed by Masters of Divination know their job very well. When their employer has 
gone to perform a service of purification, the boys recite the invocations in his place, and 
everyone accepts this as normal. Again, if a patient has lost consciousness, the boys quickly and 
expertly sprinkle cold water on his face without a word from their master. It makes me envious 
to see how clever they are, and I only wish I could have such boys in my service. 

159. Once in the Third Month 

Once in the Third Month I spent a period of abstinence in a friend's house. It was a modest 
place and the trees in the garden were not worth noticing. One of them was called a willow; but 
it was broad-leaved and had none of the willow's usual charm. 

"It doesn't look like a willow at all," I remarked. 

"All the same," insisted the people of the house, "it is a kind of willow." 

The following poem then occurred to me: 

Ah, what a house this is. 

Where the eyebrows of the willow's leaves 

Grow so impudently broad 

That they make the spring itself lose face! 15351 

During this same period of abstinence I went to stay in another rather simple house. On the 
second day, when I was becoming very bored and wishing that I could return at once to the 
Palace, I was delighted to receive a letter from the Empress. Her Majesty's poem had been 
beautifully copied by Lady Saisho on a sheet of light green paper: 

So hard to bear 

These past two days— 

How could I have lived 

Those years gone by? 15361 

To this Lady Saisho had added her own message: "Already I feel as if it were a thousand years. 
[537] Please hurry back tomorrow morning. Don't even wait for the sun to rise." Lady Saisho's 
words were charming enough; but the Empress's letter over whelmed me and, instead of 
sending a perfunctory reply, I com posed this poem; 

How sadly have I viewed these long spring days 

From my poor dwelling-place. 

When even one who lives above the clouds 15381 

Has found them hard to bear! 

And to Lady Saisho I wrote, "Perhaps I shall not even survive this night but suffer the Captain's 
sad fate." [5391 

I returned to the Palace at dawn on the following day. "I did not like your poem about the long 
spring days," said the Empress when she saw me. "My ladies also criticized it severely." [5401 

This made me very unhappy, but no doubt Her Majesty had good reason to reproach me. 

160. Once When I Had Gone to Kiyomizu Temple 

Once when I had gone to Kiyomizu Temple for a retreat and was listening with deep emotion to 
the loud cry of the cicadas a special messenger brought me a note from Her Majesty written on 
a sheet of red-tinted Chinese paper: 

Count each echo of the temple bell 

As it tolls the vespers by the mountain's 15411 side. 

Then you will know how many times 
My heart is beating out its love for you. 

"What a long stay you are making!" she added. "Surely you realize how much I miss you." Since 
I had forgotten to bring along any suitable paper, I wrote my reply on a purple lotus petal. [542] 

161. On the Twenty-Fourth of the Twelfth Month 

On the twenty-fourth of the Twelfth Month the Empress arranged that there should be a 
Naming of the Buddhas. It must have been well past midnight when the Leader finished the first 
service and we all left the temple, some to return home, others to set out for a secret tryst. I 
shared a carriage with some other people and we had a delightful drive. 

The snow had been coming down for days, but in the morning it had stopped and now there 
was a strong wind. Here and there one could see a patch of black earth where the snow had 
been blown away; but the roof-tops were completely white, and even the wretched huts of the 
poor people were very pretty under their covering of snow, evenly lit by a pale moon as though 
they were thatched with silver. The icicles, which seemed to have been deliberately hung in 
different lengths from all the eaves, were incredibly beautiful and looked like waterfalls of 

The outer blinds of our carriage had been pulled up and, since there were no inner curtains, the 
moonlight came right inside. I could see a lady who was covered in about eight layers of light 
violet, red plum, white, and other robes; over this she wore a cloak of dark violet, which shone 
with a brilliant lustre. Next to her sat a gentleman in laced trousers of grape-coloured material 
with a heavily figured design; he wore several white robes, and at the opening of his sleeves 
one could see the yellow rose and scarlet of his under-robes; he had undone the dazzlingly 
white sash of his Court cloak, which he wore off one shoulder so that one had a clear view of 
the robes beneath. He sat in such a way that one of his legs reached into the front of the 
carriage and any passer-by would have found his posture delightful. 

The lady had slipped into the back of the carriage to avoid the brilliance of the moonlight, but 
much to her embarrassment the gentleman now pulled her forward. Again and again he recited 
the words, "Piercing cold, it spreads like ice." [543] It was a delightful scene, and I should have 
liked to spend the entire night travelling in the carriage; but, alas, we soon reached our 

162. It Is Delightful for the Master of a Household 

When a group of ladies-in-waiting are on leave from Court and have gathered in a room, it is 
delightful for the master of the household to hear them exchanging flattering remarks about 
their mistresses and gossiping about the latest news from the Palace. 

I should like to live in a large, attractive house. My family would of course be staying with me; 
and in one of the wings I should have a friend, an elegant lady-in-waiting from the Palace, with 
whom I could converse. Whenever we wished, we should meet to discuss recent poems and 
other things of interest. When my friend received a letter, we should read it together and write 
our answer. If someone came to pay my friend 15441 a visit, I should receive him in one of our 
beautifully decorated rooms, and if he was prevented from leaving by a rain-storm or 
something of the sort, I should warmly invite him to stay. Whenever my friend went to the 
Palace, I should help her with her preparations and see that she had what was needed during 
her stay at Court. For everything about well-born people delights me. 

But I suppose this dream of mine is rather absurd. 

163. Times When One Should Be on One's Guard 

When one meets people who have a bad reputation. Such people often give a more sincere 
impression than those of good repute. 

When one travels by boat. I remember one such excursion. It was a beautiful clear day and the 
sea was so calm that its sur face looked like a sheet of light green, glossy silk. I was travelling 
with a group of young women, and none of us had the slightest sense of danger. Dressed in our 
short jackets, we helped the boat men at the Oars, singing song after song as we rowed. It was 
a most delightful trip, and I only wished that someone of high rank were there to see us gliding 
across the water. 

Then all of a sudden a violent wind blew up and the sea became terribly rough. We were beside 
ourselves with fear. As we rowed back to the shore, the waves leapt over the boat, and I could 
not believe that this was the same sea that a little while ago had been so smooth. 

When one thinks of it, sailors are the bravest people in the world. Even in reasonably shallow 
water their vessels are far too flimsy to be safe. Yet they do not hesitate to embark on a sea of 
any depth - perhaps even a thousand fathoms - entrusting their lives to a boat so heavily loaded 
that the water comes up almost to the edge. The common people who man the boat run up 
and down, never giving a thought to the danger; and, though it looks as if the slightest rocking 
would capsize it, one sees them banging down into the hold half a dozen great pine logs two or 
three feet in circumference. Amazing! 

People of quality travel in boats with cabins. These, of course, seem far safer, especially if one is 
in the rear; but if one is near the side one gets very dizzy. The ropes that keep the oars in 
place—the "fast cords" as they are called - look extraordinarily weak. What if one of them were 

to snap? Surely the rower would be plunged into the sea. Yet I have never seen anyone using 
heavy ropes. 

I remember one journey on such a boat. We had a charming cabin, fitted with head-blinds, 
double doors, and lattices. Though the boat did not seem quite as sturdy as most of its kind, I 
felt as if I were in a snug little house. But when I looked out and saw the other boats, I was 
really frightened. Those in the distance looked as frail as bamboo leaves that have been made 
into toy boats and scattered across the water. 15451 When we finally returned to the harbour, 
lights were shining in all the boats, which was a delightful sight. On the following morning I was 
very moved to observe people rowing out to sea in those tiny vessels known as sampans; as 
they moved slowly into the distance, the white waves behind the boats did in fact "disappear 
without a trace". 15461 

When all is said and done, only common people should go in boats. There are dangers enough 
when one travels by land, but then at least one has the firm ground under one's feet and that is 
a great comfort. 

The sea is a frightening thing at the best of times. How much more terrifying must it be for 
those poor women divers who have to plunge into its depths for their livelihood 1 15471 One 
wonders what would happen to them if the cord round their waist were to break. I can imagine 
men doing this sort of work, but for a woman it must take remarkable courage. After the 
woman has been lowered into the water, the men sit comfortably in their boats, heartily 
singing songs as they keep an eye on the mulberry-bark cord that floats on the surface. It is an 
amazing sight, for they do not show the slightest concern about the risks the woman is taking. 
When finally she wants to come up, she gives a tug on her cord and the men haul her out of the 
water with a speed that I can well understand. Soon she is clinging to the side of the boat, her 
breath coming in painful gasps. The sight is enough to make even an outsider feel the brine 
dripping. I can hardly imagine this is a job that anyone would covet. 

164. A Certain Lieutenant 

A certain lieutenant in the Right Division of the Outer Palace Guards looked down on his 
parents and was ashamed that people should see them. 15481 When they were journeying up to 
the capital from lyo Province, he pushed them both into the sea and they drowned. People 
were dismayed by his action and regarded it as shameful. Yet on the fifteenth day of the 
Seventh Month the man said that he was going to celebrate the Festival of the Dead in honour 
of his parents and he began to busy himself with preparations. When the Holy Teacher, Domei, 
15491 was told about this, he wrote the following poem, which I find really delightful: 

A man who drowned his parents in the ocean's depths 

Now celebrates the feast of Bon— 

A sorry sight indeed! 

165. Once I Wrote down a Poem 

Once I wrote down in my notebook a poem that had greatly appealed to me. Unfortunately one 
of the maids saw it and recited the lines clumsily. It really is awful when someone rattles off a 
poem without any proper feeling. 

166. If a Servant Girl 

If a servant girl says about someone, "What a delightful gentleman he is!" one immediately 
looks down on him, whereas if she insulted the person in question it would have the opposite 
effect. Praise from a servant can also damage a woman's reputation. 

Besides, people of that class always manage to express them selves badly when they are trying 
to say something nice. 

167. One Evening Korechika 

One evening Korechika, the Major Counsellor, came to the Palace and lectured to the Emperor 
on literature, his visit lasting as usual until late at night. Gradually the ladies in attendance on 
Their Majesties retired by ones and twos to lie down behind their screens or curtains of state, 
until I was the only one left. I was struggling to keep myself awake when I heard the officer of 
the Guards announce, "The Ox, fourth quarter." [5501 

"It's already dawn," I murmured. "Well then. Your Majesty," said Korechika, "it is no longer 
worth while to go to bed." 

I was shocked by his remark. After all, even if Korechika felt no need for sleep himself, why 
should he prevent His Majesty from resting? If there had been other ladies in the room, I should 
have said something since my voice would not have been recognized among theirs, but as it 
was I found it wiser to stay silent. Meanwhile the Emperor dozed off, leaning against a pillar. 
"Look at him!" said Korechika to the Empress. "How can he possibly sleep now that dawn is 

"Yes indeed," said Her Majesty, and burst out laughing. But the Emperor was deaf to it all. 

There was a young girl in the Palace who was employed as a maid by one of the housekeepers. 
She had caught a cock and was keeping it in her room, intending to take it home on the 
following day. Somehow or other the bird was found by a dog and fled all the way to the end of 
the gallery, letting out the most piercing squawks. Everyone woke up, including the Emperor, 

who came to himself with a start and asked what had happened. Korechika replied by loudly 
declaiming the words from the Chinese poem, "The prudent monarch rises from his sleep." [5511 
My own eyes were heavy with sleep, but the magnificent way in which Korechika recited the 
line made me open them wide. Their Majesties were both delighted, and complimented the 
Counsellor on his apt quotation. Such things are really very splendid. 

At about midnight on the following evening, when the Emperor had retired to his bedchamber 
and I had just called for my servant, Korechika came up to me. "Are you going to your room?" 
he said. "Let me escort you." Having hung my cere monial over-skirt and my Chinese jacket on a 
screen, I allowed him to accompany me. 

His Court cloak looked dazzlingly white in the bright moon light. I noticed that his loose trousers 
were a bit too long and that he stepped on them as he walked. At one point he held my sleeve 
and said, "Be careful not to trip." Then, as he continued guiding me along the corridors, he 
recited the line, "As the traveller journeys by the dying moon's faint light". 15521 1 was overjoyed 
at the quotation—so much so, indeed, that Korechika laughingly remarked, "You do let yourself 
get excited by such things, don't you?" Yes, I thought, but how can one help being impressed 
when someone recites poetry so beautifully? 

168. One Day I Was in the Apartment 

One day I was in the apartment of Her Highness, the Mistress of the Robes, 15531 together with 
Mama, the nurse of the Lord Bishop, when I noticed a man coming along the wooden balcony 
outside the room. He seemed to be on the verge of tears. "A terrible thing has happened to 
me," he said. "I don't know where to appeal." "Well," we asked, "what is it?" "I was obliged to 
leave home for a while," he replied, and while I was absent my miser able house was burnt 
down. For the past several days I have had to live like a hermit-crab, squeezing myself into 
other people's houses. 15541 The fire started in one of the hay-lofts belonging to the Imperial 
Stables and quickly spread to my home. There is only a fence between the two buildings, and 
one of the lads in the bedroom just escaped being burnt alive. They didn't save a single object." 

We all burst out laughing at this, including the Mistress of the Robes; I took a sheet of paper 
and wrote. 

If the vernal sun burns strong enough 
To sprout the young grass roots. 

Even a place like Yodo Plain 
Can ill survive its heat. 15551 

"Kindly give him this," I told Mama, throwing the paper to her. With loud laughter Mama 
handed the poem to the man. "Madam has presented you with this," she explained, "because 
she is so sorry for you at having lost your house. 

"What does the record-slip [5561 say?" he asked. "How much is she giving me?" 

"Read it first," said one of the ladies. 

"But how can I, Madam?" he asked. "Neither of my eyes is up to that." 

Well then, ask someone to read it for you," said the lady. "We can't help you. The Empress has 
sent for us and we must go to the Palace directly. But with such a splendid document in your 
hands, you have nothing more to worry about." 

Roaring with laughter, we set off for the Palace. "I wonder if he's shown it to anyone yet," said 
one of my companions after a while. "How furious he will be when he hears what it really is!" 

When we saw Her Majesty, Mama told her what had happened, and there was a lot more 
laughter. The Empress herself joined in, saying, "How can you all be so mad?" 

169. A Young Man Has Lost His Mother 15571 

A young man has lost his mother; the father loves him dearly but marries again, and the 
stepmother turns out to be a very dis agreeable woman. The son is no longer allowed into the 
main part of the house and lives in one of the wings or in a guest room. This is a pleasant 
enough room with some outstanding paintings on the screens and panels. An old nurse, or 
possibly a maid who used to work for his mother, looks after his wardrobe. 

He is very popular at Court; even the Emperor enjoys his company and frequently summons 
him to join in concerts. The young man has an extraordinarily amorous nature. For all this, he is 
constantly unhappy and nothing in the world seems to please him. The only person to whom he 
feels close is his elder sister; she is married to a High Court Noble, who dotes upon her and 
regards her as unique. The young man confides all his feelings to this sister and she is his great 
consolation in life. 

170.1 Cannot Stand a Woman Who Wears Sleeves of Unequal Width 15581 

I cannot stand a woman who wears sleeves of unequal width. If she has several layers of robes, 
the added weight on one side makes her entire costume lop-sided and most inelegant; if she is 
dressed in thick wadded clothes, the uneven balance prevents them from closing properly in 
front, and this too is very unsightly. When a woman wears a robe with sleeves of different 
width, all her robes must be cut in the same style. 

The smartest robes, after all, are those with evenly matched sleeves that people have worn 
since ancient times. I don't mind if both the sleeves are very wide, but such robes are rather 
awkward for Court ladies in ceremonial dress. 

The fashion of unequal sleeves is just as unattractive for men as for women, since it produces 
the same lop-sided effect. Yet nowadays everyone seems to have his clothes cut like this, 
whether he is wearing a fine ceremonial robe or a light summer garment. Fashionable, good- 
looking people really dress in a most inconvenient way. 

171. Illnesses 

Chest trouble. Illnesses caused by evil spirits. Beriberi. Ill nesses that cannot be properly 
identified yet that make people lose all their appetite. 

Once I saw a girl of about eighteen with magnificent hair that hung in thick tresses all the way 
to her feet; she was nicely plump and had splendid white skin. [5591 Apart from her charming 
features, she was obviously of good breeding. At the moment she was suffering from a very bad 
toothache. Her hair was in great disorder and where it hung over her forehead it was damp 
with tears. Quite unconscious of this she kept pressing her hand against her flushed cheek, 
which made a delightful effect. 

On another occasion I saw a girl in an unlined robe of soft white material, an attractive trouser- 
skirt, and a bright aster cloak. She had a terrible pain in her chest. Her fellow ladies-in waiting 
visited her one after another, while outside her room a crowd of young noblemen had come to 
inquire about her. "How dreadfully sad!" they exclaimed. "Has she ever suffered from this 
before?" In fact none of them seemed particularly concerned, except one who, being the girl's 
lover, was obviously very distressed about her illness. Since their relations were secret, he was 
frightened of attracting attention and, though he entered her room, he did not dare come too 
close. I found it fascinating to watch him standing there, his eyes full of anxiety. 

She bound back her beautiful long hair [560] and sat up in bed, saying that she was going to be 
sick. It was painful to see how ill she looked, yet there was something charming about her 

The Empress, having heard about the girl's condition, sent a priest who was known for his skill 
in performing the Sacred Readings. He installed himself behind a curtain of state and started to 
intone his sutras. Since it was a very small room, it was impossible to provide screens and 
curtains for all the ladies who had come to visit their friend and who now wanted to hear the 
recitation. They were therefore clearly exposed to view and, while the priest read the 
scriptures, he kept glancing in their direction, which no doubt earned him a heavy load of guilt. 

172.1 Cannot Bear Men to Eat 

I cannot bear men to eat when they come to visit ladies-in waiting in the Palace. I also object to 
women who offer food to their male guests. Sometimes these women become quite insistent 
and say they will do nothing until the man has eaten. In such cases he is bound to give in; after 
all, he cannot very well put his hand in front of his mouth or turn his head the other way with a 
look of disgust. For my part, even if a man arrived very late and very drunk, I should never offer 
him so much as a bowl of watered rice. If he thinks I am heartless and decides not to repeat his 
visit - well then, let him stay away! 

Of course, if I am at home and one of the maids brings my visitor something from the kitchen, 
there is nothing I can do about it. Yet I find this just as disagreeable. 

173. It Is Very Annoying 

It is very annoying, when one has visited Hase Temple and has retired into one's enclosure, to 
be disturbed by a herd of com mon people who come and sit outside in a row, crowded so close 
together that the tails of their robes fall over each other in utter disarray. I remember that once 
I was overcome by a great desire to go on a pilgrimage. Having made my way up the log steps, 
deafened by the fearful roar of the river, [5611 1 hurried into my enclosure, longing to gaze upon 
the sacred countenance of Buddha. To my dismay I found that a throng of commoners had 
settled themselves directly in front of me, where they were incessantly standing up, prostrating 
themselves, and squatting down again. They looked like so many basket-worms as they 
crowded together in their hideous clothes, leaving hardly an inch of space between themselves 
and me. I really felt like pushing them all over sideways. 

Important visitors always have attendants to clear such pests from their enclosures; but it is not 
so easy for ordinary people like me. If one summons one of the priests who is responsible for 
looking after the pilgrims, he simply says something like "You there, move back a little, won't 
you?" and, as soon as he has left, things are as bad as before. 

174. The Way in Which Carpenters Eat 

The way in which carpenters eat is really odd. When they had finished the main building and 
were working on the eastern wing, some carpenters squatted in a row to have their meal; I sat 
on the veranda and watched them. The moment the food was brought, they fell on the soup 
bowls and gulped down the con tents. Then they pushed the bowls aside and finished off all the 
vegetables. I wondered whether they were going to leave their rice; a moment later there 
wasn't a grain left in the bowls. [5621 They all behaved in exactly the same way, so I suppose this 
must be the custom of carpenters. I should not call it a very charming one. 

175. One Night in the Ninth Month 

One night in the Ninth Month a certain lady was visited by a young man who, though not of the 
highest nobility, was known for his elegance and keen wits. He left before dawn when the 
moon still hung in the sky, bathing the whole landscape with its beautiful light. Determined that 
the lady should think back fondly on their parting, [5631 he whispered to her every endearment 
that he knew. She stood watching for a long time as he dis appeared into the distance, believing 
that this was the last she would see of him that night. The scene was beautiful beyond words. 

Her lover, however, had only pretended to be leaving; presently he came back and hid behind a 
garden fence, intending to let the lady know he was still there. Just then she glanced in his 
direction and recited the words, "Like the moon that lingers in the dawning sky. [5641 According 
to what the man told people later, the moonlight seemed to be shining like a great lamp only a 
few inches from where the lady was standing, and he was so over come by the sight that he left 
without a word. 

176. It Often Happens That a Court Lady 

It often happens that a Court lady is obliged to borrow someone's carriage to travel to or from 
the Palace. The owner declares that he is only too delighted to be of service, but the carriage 
attendants do not conceal their annoyance. The drivers shout at the oxen even more roughly 
than usual and force them to trot along so rapidly that the lady finds it all most disagreeable. 
The outrunners, looking extremely vexed, keep muttering that they must hurry if they are to be 
home before dark. Obviously the master himself was none too pleased about lending the 
carriage, and the lady decides she will never apply to him again even in an emergency. 

With Lord Narito, however, things are totally different. Whether in the middle of the night or at 
dawn, no lady who borrows his carriage suffers even the slightest embarrassment. He must 
certainly have trained his attendants carefully. If Narito is travelling at night and sees some 
lady's carriage that is stuck in a deep rut and surrounded by a group of furious drivers, he sends 
his own carriage over to goad the oxen and help the carriage on its way. A man who shows such 
concern for mere strangers must have given his attendants the most careful instructions about 
looking after the passengers in his own carriage. 

177. A Young Bachelor 15651 

A young bachelor of an adventurous nature comes home at dawn, having spent the night in 
some amorous encounter. Though he still looks sleepy, he immediately draws his inkstone to 
him and, after carefully rubbing it with ink, starts to write his next-morning letter. He does not 
let his brush run down the paper in a careless scrawl, but puts himself heart and soul into the 
calligraphy. What a charming figure he makes as he sits there by himself in an easy posture, 
with his robe falling slightly open! It is a plain unlined robe of pure white, and over it he wears a 

cloak of rose-yellow or crimson. As he finishes his letter, he notices that the white robe is still 
damp from the dew, and for a while he gazes at it fondly. 

Then he makes arrangements for delivering his letter. Instead of calling one of the ladies in 
attendance, he takes the trouble to get up and select a page-boy who seems suitable for the 
task. Summoning the boy to his side, he whispers his instructions and hands over the letter. The 
page leaves for the lady's house, and for some time the gentleman watches him disappear in 
the distance. As he sits there, he quietly murmurs some appropriate passage from the sutras. 

Now one of his servants comes to announce that his washing water and morning gruel have 
been prepared in the neighbouring wing. The gentleman goes there, and soon he is leaning 
against the reading-desk and looking at some Chinese poems, from which he now and then 
reads out a passage that he has particularly enjoyed—altogether a charming sight. 

Presently he performs his ablutions and changes into a white Court cloak, which he wears 
without any trousers. Thus attired, he starts reciting the sixth scroll of the Lotus Sutra from 
memory. A pious gentleman indeed - or so one might think, except that at just this moment the 
messenger returns (he cannot have had far to go) and nods encouragingly to his master, who 
there upon instantly interrupts his recitation and, with what might strike one as sinful haste, 
transfers his attention to the lady's reply. 

178. It Is Noon on a Summer Day 

It is noon on a summer day and the weather is so hot that one does not know what to do with 
oneself. One keeps waving one's fan, but there is not a breath of cool air; then, just as one is 
hurrying to put one's hands in a bowl of iced water, a letter arrives. It is written on a sheet of 
fine, brilliantly red paper and attached to a Chinese pink in full bloom. Without thinking, one 
lays aside one's fan (which was not doing much good in any case) and imagines how deeply 
one's friend must feel to have taken all this trouble on such a suffocating day. 

179. The Floorboards in the Ante-Room [5661 

The floorboards in the ante-room are shining so brightly that they mirror everything near by, 
and some crisp new straw matting has been placed near the three-post curtain of state. The 
curtains themselves give a lovely cool impression; when one pushes them, they glide smoothly 
back, opening far wider than one expected and revealing the lady of the house, who under the 
faded dark robe she is using as her bedclothing wears a white unlined gown of raw silk and a 
crimson trouser-skirt. 

By the light of the lamp one can see that the blinds further back in the room have been raised 
all the way; below them several women, including a couple of ladies-in-waiting, girl attendants, 
and others, sit leaning against the raised beam between the ante-room and the veranda. In 

another part of the room some more ladies are huddled together under a closed blind. A fire is 
smouldering deep in the incense-burner, giving out a scent that is vaguely melancholy and full 
of a calm elegance. 15671 

Late in the evening there is a stealthy tap outside. A lady-in waiting (the one who always knows 
what is happening) hurries to the gate and lets in the gentleman visitor. Then with a smug look 
on her face she stealthily leads him to the lady who has been awaiting his arrival. 

From one side of the hall comes the beautiful sound of lute music. The player plucks the strings 
so gently that even when the murmur of conversation dies down one can barely make out the 

180. At First Dawn a Carriage Passes 

At first dawn a carriage passes along the near-by avenue. The gentleman who is travelling in it 
has raised the blinds so that he can enjoy the beautiful pale moon, and one is delighted to hear 
him recite in a most elegant voice, "As the traveller goes by the dying moon's faint light." 15681 

It is delightful also when a man on horseback recites poetry at dawn. I remember that once I 
heard a splendid line of verse accompanied by the flapping of a horse's mud-shields. Who could 
the rider be? When I put aside what I was doing and looked out, I was dismayed to see that he 
was a vulgar commoner. 

181. A Handsome Young Gentleman 

A handsome young gentleman is riding along on horseback, beautifully dressed in a Court cloak, 
over-robe, and hunting costume, with the full array of his varicoloured under-robes emerging at 
the opening of his sleeves. Still in his saddle, he hands an elegantly knotted letter to the servant 
who accompanies him on foot. It is delightful to observe how the man looks up at his master as 
he takes the letter from him. 

182. The House Had a Spacious Courtyard 

The house had a spacious courtyard and was shadowed by tall pine trees. To the south and east 
the lattice-windows were all wide open. It gave a cool feeling when one looked inside. In the 
main room was a four-foot curtain of state and in front of it a round hassock on which a priest 
was kneeling. He was in his early thirties and quite handsome. Over his grey habit he wore a 
fine silk stole - altogether the effect was magnificent. Cooling himself with a clove-scented fan, 
he recited the Magic Incantation of the Thousand Hands. 15691 

I gathered that someone in the house was seriously ill, [5701 for now a heavily built girl with a 
splendid head of hair edged her way into the room. Clearly this was the medium to whom the 
evil spirit was going to be transferred. She was wearing an unlined robe of stiff silk and long, 
light-coloured trousers. 

When the girl had sat down next to the priest in front of a small three-foot curtain of state, he 
turned round and handed her a thin, highly polished wand. 15711 Then with his eyes tightly shut 
he began to read the mystic incantations, his voice coming out in staccato bursts as he uttered 
the sacred syllables. It was an impressive sight, and many of the ladies of the house came out 
from behind the screens and curtains and sat watching in a group. 

After a short time the medium began to tremble and fell into a trance. It was awesome indeed 
to see how the priest's incantations were steadily taking effect. The medium's brother, a 
slender young man in a long robe who had only recently celebrated his coming of age, stood 
behind the girl, fanning her. 

Everyone who witnessed the scene was overcome with respect. It occurred to me how 
embarrassed the girl herself would feel to be exposed like this if she were in her normal state of 
mind. She lay there groaning and wailing in the most terrible way, and, though one realized that 
she was in no actual pain, [572] one could not help sympathizing with her. Indeed, one of the 
patients' friends, feeling sorry for the girl, went up to her curtain of state and helped to 
rearrange her disordered clothing. 

Meanwhile it was announced that the patient was a little better. Some young attendants were 
sent to the kitchen to fetch hot water and other requisites. Even while they were carrying their 
trays they kept darting uneasy glances at the exorcist. They wore pretty unlined robes and 
formal skirts whose light mauve colour was as fresh as on the day they were dyed—it made a 
most charming effect. 

By the Hour of the Monkey 15731 the priest had brought the spirit under control and, having 
forced it to beg for mercy, he now dismissed it. "Oh!" exclaimed the medium. "I thought I was 
behind the curtains and here I am in front. What on earth has happened?" Overcome with 
embarrassment, she hid her face in her long hair and was about to glide out of the room when 
the priest stopped her and, after murmuring a few incantations, said, "Well, my dear, how do 
you feel? You should be quite yourself by now." He smiled at the girl, but this only added to her 

"I should have liked to stay a little longer," said the priest, as he prepared to leave the house, 
"but I am afraid it is almost time for my evening prayers." The people of the house tried to stop 
him. "Please wait a moment," they said. "We should like to make an offering." But the priest 
was obviously in a great hurry and would not stay. At this point a lady of noble rank, evidently a 
member of the family, edged her way up to the priest's curtain of state and said, "We are most 
grateful for your visit. Your Reverence. Our patient looked as if she might well succumb to the 

evil spirit, but now she is well on the way to recovery. I cannot tell you how delighted we are. If 
Your Reverence has any free time tomorrow, would you please call again?" 

"I fear we are dealing with a very obstinate spirit," the priest replied briefly, "and we must not 
be off our guard. I am pleased that what I did today has helped the patient." 15741 So saying, he 
took his leave with an air of such dignity that everyone felt the Buddha himself had appeared 
on earth. [575] 

183. Things That are Unpleasant to See 

Someone in a robe whose back seam is crooked. People who wear their clothes with the collars 
pulled back. A High Court Noble's carriage that has dirty blinds. 

People who insist on bringing out all their children when they receive a visit from someone who 
rarely comes to see them. 

Boys who wear high clogs 15761 with their trouser-skirts. I realize that this is the modern fashion, 
but I still don't like it. 

Women in travelling costumes who walk in a great hurry. 15771 

A priest who is acting as a Master of Divination and who wears a paper head-dress 15781 to 
perform a service of purification. 

A thin, ugly woman who has dark skin and wears a wig. 

A lean, hirsute man taking a nap in the daytime. 15791 Does it occur to him what a spectacle he is 
making of himself? Ugly men should sleep only at night, for they cannot be seen in the dark 
and, besides, most people are in bed themselves. But they should get up at the crack of dawn, 
so that no one has to see them lying down. 15801 

A pretty woman looks even prettier when she gets up after taking a nap on a summer day. But 
an unattractive woman should avoid such things, for her face will be all puffy and shining and, if 
she is not lucky, her cheeks will have an ugly, lop sided look. When two people, having taken a 
nap together in the daytime, wake up and see each other's sleep-swollen faces, how dreary life 
must seem to them! 

A dark-skinned person looks very ugly in an unlined robe of stiff silk. If the robe is scarlet, 15811 
however, it looks better, even though it is just as transparent. I suppose one of the reasons I do 
not like ugly women to wear unlined robes is that one can see their navels. 

184. When the Middle Captain 

When the Middle Captain of the Left Guards Division was still Governor of Ise, he visited me 
one day at my home. There was a straw mat at the edge of the veranda, and I pulled it out for 
him. This notebook of mine happened to be lying on the mat, but I did not notice it in time. I 
snatched at the book and made a desperate effort to get it back; but the Captain instantly took 
it off with him and did not return it until much later. I suppose it was from this time that my 
book began to be passed about at Court. 

185. It Is Getting So Dark 

It is getting so dark that I can scarcely go on writing; and my brush is all worn out. Yet I should 
like to add a few things before I end. 

I wrote these notes at home, when I had a good deal of time to myself and thought no one 
would notice what I was doing. Everything that I have seen and felt is included. Since much of it 
might appear malicious and even harmful to other people, I was careful to keep my book 
hidden. But now it has become public, which is the last thing I expected. 

One day Lord Korechika, the Minister of the Centre, brought the Empress a bundle of 
notebooks. "What shall we do with them?" Her Majesty asked me. "The Emperor has already 
made arrangements for copying the "Records of the Historian"." [5821 

"Let me make them into a pillow," I said. [5831 

"Very well," said Her Majesty. You may have them." 

I now had a vast quantity of paper at my disposal, and I set about filling the notebooks with odd 
facts, stories from the past, and all sorts of other things, often including the most trivial 
material. On the whole I concentrated on things and people that I found charming and 
splendid; my notes are also full of poems and observations on trees and plants, birds and 
insects. I was sure that when people saw my book they would say, "It's even worse than I 
expected. Now one can really tell what she is like." After all, it is written entirely for my own 
amusement and I put things down exactly as they came to me. How could my casual jottings 
possibly bear comparison with the many impressive books that exist in our time? Readers have 
declared, however, that I can be proud of my work. This has surprised me greatly; yet I suppose 
it is not so strange that people should like it, for, as will be gathered from these notes of mine, I 
am the sort of person who approves of what others abhor and detests the things they like. [5841 

Whatever people may think of my book, I still regret that it ever came to light. 





Sansom, History 


R. K. Reischauer, Early Japanese History, Prince-- ton, 1937. 

Kaneko Motoomi, Makura no Soshi Hyoshaku, Tokyo, 1927. 

Ikeda Kikan and Kishigami Shinji, Makura no Soshi, Nihon Koten Bungaku 
Taikei ed., Tokyo, 1958. 

Sir George Sansom, A History of Japan, vol. i, Lqndon, 1958. 

Arthur Waley, The Pillow-Book of Sei Shonagon, London, 1928. 

Ivan Morris, The World of the Shining Prince, Penguin Books, 1969. 


1. The famous opening words of The Pillow Book constitute an elliptical sentence. Their 

literal meaning is "As for spring the dawn", but some predicate like "is the most 
beautiful time of the day" must be understood. The same applies to the opening 
phrases of each of the four paragraphs in this section. 

2. See App. I. New Year's Day was, and still is, an occasion for paying one's respects to the 

Emperor and to other superiors (W.S.P., p. 167). It also marked an increase in one's own 
age, thus corresponding in some ways to the Western birthday. 

3. The Festival of Young Herbs was one of the seven national festivals listed in the code of 

718 (see App. I). Derived from Han China, it had been observed at the Japanese Court 
since the reign of Emperor Saga in the early ninth century. The "seven herbs" (parsley, 
borage, etc.) were plucked and made into a gruel which was supposed to ward off evil 
spirits and to protect one's health throughout the year. In the Palace a bowl of this gruel 
was ceremoniously presented to the Emperor (see W.S.P., p. 169). 

4. Normally the grounds near the Palace were kept clear of plants, weeds, etc.; but at this 

time of the year it was possible to find "young herbs", since they were hidden by the 
snow. (In this translation Palace with a capital P invariably refers to the Imperial Palace 
in Heian Kyo, App. 3c.) 

5. The Festival of the Blue Horses was an annual ceremony in which twenty-one horses 

from the Imperial stables were paraded before the Emperor in the great courtyard in 
front of the Ceremonial Palace. (See App. 1.) The custom, which had existed in ancient 
China, was imported to Japan early in the eighth century. Originally the horses were 
steel grey (hence the name "blue"); but, since such horses were very rare and since 
white was the colour of purity in Shinto ritual, they were replaced in the early tenth 
century by white horses. 

6. The Central Gate: refers to the Taiken Mon, the main eastern gate of the Greater Imperial 

Palace. A huge wooden cross-beam was fixed on the ground and joined the two main 
pillars of the gate. 

7. Senior courtier: a gentleman of the Fourth or Fifth Rank who had the privilege of waiting 

in attendance on the Emperor in the Senior Courtiers" Chamber; in certain special cases 
gentlemen of the Sixth Rank were also accorded this privilege (see note 86) and they too 
were known as senior courtiers. 

For ranks and offices see App. 2 and W.S.P., pp. 78-80. "Left Division" is an abbreviation 
of" Outer Palace Guards, Left Division", one of the Imperial Guards regiments in charge 
of the gates of the Palace and also responsible for patrolling the Palace grounds. 
Their guard-house was on the route of the Blue Horse procession. 

8. On the eighth day of the First Month presents of silk and brocade were given to the 

Imperial Princesses, and many of the Court ladies were promoted in rank. All those who 
had been so favoured went to present their formal thanks to the emperor. 

9. Full-moon gruel: a special gruel eaten on the fifteenth day of the First Month (see W.S.P., 

p. 170 and App. 1). Its name derived from the fact that the full moon in the lunar 
calendar was invariably on the fifteenth of the month. A stick of peeled elder-wood was 
used to stir the gruel, and it was believed that, if a woman was struck on the loins with 
such a stick, she would soon give birth to a male child. (N.B. the fifteenth of the First 
Month was also dedicated to Shinto deities representing the male element.) It therefore 
became customary on this day for women to run about the house hitting each other 
playfully with these sticks. The custom, which survived in rural districts until fairly 
modern times, possibly had phallic origins, and it may be related to the country dances 
in which the participants whacked each other with large wooden phalli. 

10. The young man was a muko (son-in-law). According to the standard systems of marriage 
among the Heian upper classes, the husband either moved in with his wife's family, or 
continued living at home and visited her more or less regularly to spend the night. For 
details see Ivan Morris, "Marriage in the World of Genji", Asia, spring 1968. 

11. According to some of the commentators, the woman was Shonagon herself; the 
description certainly fits. 

12. "Empress" in this translation always refers to Fujiwara no Sadako, Michitaka's daughter 
in whose Court Sei Shonagon served as lady-in-waiting. 

13. Colours of clothes in Heian literature frequently referred, not to single colours, but to 
certain fashionable combinations produced by lining the costume with material of a 
different colour from the outside. A "cherry-coloured" cloak, for instance, was one 
whose outside was white and whose lining was red or violet. 

14. The Festival: refers to the Kamo Festival, the main Shinto celebration of the year, which 
was observed in the middle of the Fourth Month (see W.S.P., p. 173, and App. I). 

15. Hototogisu: usually translated "cuckoo"; but the hototogisu (cuculus polioceplzalus) is a 
far more poetic type of bird with none of the cuckoo's cheeky associations, and I prefer 
to leave it in the original (cf. uguisu, note 134). The name, hototogisu, is an 
onomatopoeia derived from the bird's characteristic cry of ho-to-to; in Heian times 
people accordingly described the hototogisu as "announcing its name". 

16. Dyeing was one of the great arts of the Heian period, as well as a pastime for women of 
quality. It was done with particular care when the clothes were to be worn during the 
Kamo Festival. The three forms mentioned here are: border shading, in which the 
material becomes darker towards the bottom of the garment; uneven shading, in which 
the material is dyed unevenly all over; and rolled dyeing, in which the material is rolled 
up before being immersed in the dye. 

17. Women's language was traditionally far less influenced by Chinese and, contained a 
much larger proportion of "pure" Japanese words and constructions. In the Sangenbon 
texts the title of this section is: "Cases in which people say the same thing, but sound 

18. Popular Buddhist beliefs at the time included the following: "If a man becomes a priest, 
his father and mother are saved until the seventh generation" and "When a child takes 
the. Vows, nine of his relations are reborn in Heaven." 

19. The events described in this section occurred towards the very end of the period 
covered by The Pillow Book (see App. 5). It was in the Eighth Month of 999 that Empress 
Sadako moved from the Palace to Narimasa's house in the Third Ward. The move was 
necessitate-d by her pregnancy, which made her ritually unclean (see W.S.P., pp. 107-8) 
and therefore unable to stay under the same roof as the Emperor. The palace in the 
Second Ward, where she would normally have gone, had burnt down and she was 
obliged to move into Narimasa's comparatively modest residence. 

Four-pillared, gates could normally be built only by men of the Second Rank or above 
(W.S.P., p. 80). Because of the Empress's visit, however, Narimasa had been given 
special permission to add two extra pillars to his gate. 

20. Yu Kung (Uko) of the Former Han dynasty was so proud of his son. Ting Kuo (Teikoku), 
that he ordered a specially high gate to be built in front of his house; this was to permit 
the passage of the great retinues that he knew would one day accompany the young 
man. Narimasa, even though he has "strayed along these paths" (i.e. the paths of 
Chinese scholarship), seems to be mixing up the name of the son and that of the father 
(who. was not nearly so well known); Shonagon does not take him up on the mistake— 
an interesting omission in view of her reputation for being learned (cf. the end of note 
112). It should be borne in mind that Shonagon and Narimasa are speaking to each 
other through a screen, and that they are kneeling on straw mats in the same room as 
the Empress but at such a distance from her that she cannot hear their conversation 
(W.S.P., p. 46). 

21. The layout of Heian rooms is difficult to suggest in translation; I have tried to make my 
equivalents as simple as possible, and in a few cases I have slightly abbreviated the 
descriptions when the details seemed unimportant. 

The term hisashi, which is particularly intractable to smooth translation, referred to a 
part of the room that was covered by deep eaves and that was situated between the 
main part of the room and the open veranda; the hisashi was normally divided into four 
sections, designated as north, south, east, and west (in the present passage we find 
western hisashi). "Ante-room" is probably the best equivalent, but it must be 
remembered that the hisashi was not a separate room. Latticed shutters or gratings 
divided the hisashi from the open veranda, the main part of the room was separated 
from the hisashi by blinds or curtains or both (see App. 4b). Great importance was 
attached to geographical directions both within and outside the house (see W.S.P., p. 
137). Since the Heian house faced south, north can conveniently be translated as "back" 
(of the house, room, etc.). 

22. Kicho (curtain of state or curtain-frame): a piece of furniture that played a most 
important part in Heian domestic architecture. Analogous to the Indian pardah, it was a 
portable frame, about six feet high and of variable width, which supported opaque 

hangings and was mainly aimed at protecting the women of the house from being seen 
by men and strangers (W.S.P., p. 48, and App. 4b). When reading The Pillow Book, we 
should remember that Shonagon and her companions spent a good part of their time 
ensconced behind kicho. 

23. Princess Imperial refers to Princess Osako, Emperor Ichijo's eldest daughter, who was 
born to Sadako in 996, and who came with the Empress to Narimasa's house in 999. 

24. Narimasa does not know the name of the over-garment in question and is obliged to 
use an absurd circumlocution; it is much as if a man were to say "the garment that 
covers a woman's shoulders" for "shawl". 

25. Instead of the normal ch usai ("small"), Narimasa says chusei. According to Waley, this is 
an affection; but it sounds more like a provincial dialect, probably from Mimasaka 
Province near the Inland Sea, where his father had been Assistant Governor. Anything in 
the way of a provincialism was bound to amuse Shonagon and her companions. 
According to another theory, it was a type of student dialect that Narimasa retained 
from his days at the University, but this seems far- fetched. 

26. Middle Counsellor: one of six officials of the Third Rank who served in the Great Council 
of State, the central bureaucracy of the Heian government (App. 2). Narimasa refers to 
his elder brother, Taira no Korenaka (c. 944-1006), who later became Assistant 
Governor-General of the Govern- ment Headquarters in Kyushu. Shonagon appears to 
have had more respect for Korenaka than for his younger brother, whom she clearly 
regarded as a figure of fun. 

What impressed Korenaka, of course, was Shonagon's neat allusion to Ting Kuo (note 

20 ). 

27. Cats had been imported from the Continent, and there are several references to them in 
Heian chronicles and literature. 

The diary of Fujiwara no Sanesuke, for instance, contains the momentous entry (on the 
nineteenth day of the Ninth Month in 999) that one of the Palace cats gave birth to a 
litter of kittens, that the birth-ceremony was attended by no lesser dignitaries than the 
Ministers of the Left and of the Right, and that Uma no Myobu was appointed nurse to 
the litter. Myobu no Omoto may well have been one of the kittens born on this 
occasion. Readers of The Tale ofGenji will recall the important part played by a cat in 
the Kashiwagi-Nyosan story. Emperor Ichijo was known to be particularly fond of cats, 
and there were several in his Palace; few, however, were elevated to the nobility. 
Head-dress of nobility: originally this referred to the ceremonial head-dress given by the 
Emperor to gentlemen of the Fifth Rank and above. It was a small, round, black cap with 
a protuberance sticking up in the back and a wide, stiff ribbon hanging down. 

Lady Myobu: Myobu originally designated a lady who, either by marriage or in her own 
right, belonged to the Fifth Rank or above; from the tenth century the term was applied 
to any woman of medium rank. Omoto was a general term for high-ranking ladies-in¬ 
waiting, especially those serving in the Imperial Palace. 

28. Imperial Dining Room: this was the room in which cere- monial meals were served to 
the Emperor in the mornings and evenings; his real meals were eaten in another room. 

29. Chamberlain: one of the officials in the Emperor's Private Office which was in charge of 
matters relating to the Emperor and his Palace. This office had been established early in 
the ninth century as a means of simplifying the cumbrous Chinese administration and of 
concentrating power. For a time it was the most important organ of government, 
relegating many of the older departments to political insignificance. 

30. i.e., on the occasion of the Jomi Festival earlier in the same month. On this day the dogs 
in the Palace were frequently decorated with flowers and leaves. 

31. Ukon was one of the ladies in the Palace Attendants' Office, a bureau of female officials 
who waited on the Emperor. 

Almost certainly Ukon recognizes Okinamaro, but pretends that it is a different dog in 
order to spare him further punishment (cf. Shonagon's own reply to Tadataka on p. 33). 

32. Table Room: a room with a large table adjoining the Imperial Dining Room (note 28) and 
used mainly by the Emperor's ladies-in-waiting. 

Tadataka, of course, does not enter the Empress's room, but stands outside the blinds, 
where he cannot actually see the dog. 

33. In this section Shonagon lists the Five Festivals, see App. 1. 

34. The Weaver Festival is derived from a Chinese legend about the love of the Weaver and 
the Herdsman represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively. Because of her love 
for the Herdsman, the Weaver neglected her work on the clothes for the gods, while the 
Herdsman neglected his cattle. As a punishment the Heavenly Emperor put the two 
stars on opposite sides of the Milky Way, decreeing that they should be allowed to meet 
only once a year, namely on the seventh day of the Seventh Month, when a company of 
heavenly magpies use their wings to form a bridge that the Weaver can cross to join her 
lover. The magpies, however, will not make the bridge unless it is a clear night; if it rains, 
the lovers must wait until the next year. During the Tanabata Festival poems are written 
in dedication to the two starry lovers, and women pray to the Weaver for skill in 
weaving, sewing, music, poetry, and other arts. The peculiar name of the month may 
derive from these customs. Altars with offerings and incense were set up outside the 
palaces and, private houses on the night of the seventh. 

35. Floss silk covers were put over the chrysanthemums on the eve of the Chrysanthemum 
Festival (see note 33 and W.S.P., p. 177), either to protect them from the dew or, 
according to another theory, so that one might enjoy these scent-impregnated covers, 
which, incidentally, were believed to. protect people from old age if they rubbed their 
bodies with them. 

36. Baton: a flat stick held by officials in the right hand on occasions when they wore Court 
costume; instructions concerning details of Court ceremony were sometimes written on 
the batons or on pieces of paper pasted to them. For gentlemen of the Fifth Rank and 
above the batons were ivory; otherwise they were wood. 

37. Ceremonial movements: a complicated series of movements performed when giving 
thanks to the Emperor or on other formal occasions, and so elegant and stylized as to be 
equivalent to a dance, in which the various gestures and poses are intended to express 
the joy and gratitude of the performer. 

38. For the importance attached to geographical directions see note 21. 

North-east, lit. ox-tiger, was the unlucky direction according to traditional Chinese 
beliefs (see W.S.P., p. 137). Directions were frequently named by reference to the 
Chinese Zodiac. 

Seiryo Palace, lit. Pure and Fresh Palace, was the normal residence of the reigning 
Emperor. The Empress's room was used by her when she came from her Own palace, 
the Koki Den, to stay with the Emperor; the sliding screen "protected" this room from 
the northern veranda of the Palace by scaring away any evil spirits that might be lurking 
in the vicinity. The terrifying creatures with long arms and legs were, of course, 
imaginary; they were of Chinese origin. 

39. His Excellency the Major Counsellor: Major Counsellors were among the top officials in 
the Great Council of State (App. 2). 

The present incumbent was Fujiwara no Korechika, the elder brother of the Empress, 
who received the appointment in 992. Two years later he became Minister of the 
Centre; but in 996 he was exiled from the capital, ostensibly because of a scandal 
involving a former Emperor, but in fact because of the rivalry of his uncle, Michinaga 
(see W.S.P., p. 71). Korechika was noted for his good looks, and many commentators 
have regarded him as a (or even the) model for the Shining Prince, the hero of The Tale 
of Genji. 

40. Daytime Chamber: the main room of Seiryo Palace. 

41. Threshold: the threshold between the main part of the room and the hisashi (note 21). 

42. Taken from the Manyo Shu, but with a few minor changes. Mimoro, in eastern Yamato, 
is the site of an ancient Shinto shrine mentioned in the Kojiki. The mountain is 
associated with the idea of the everlasting power promised to the Japanese Imperial line 
by the Shinto deities. Korechika no doubt has in mind the continued prosperity of the 
Empress, his sister. 

43. Naniwazu: famous poem attributed to the Korean scholar, Wani (who is said to have 
introduced Chinese writing into Japan), and later to Emperor Nintoku (c. 400). The 
second attribution was made by Kino Tsurayuki in his preface to the Kokin Shu : "The 
Naniwazu is the first poem to have been composed by an Emperor." 

The poem is as follows: 

Ah, this flower that bloomed 

In the port of Naniwa 

And was hidden in the winter months! 

Now that spring is here 
Once more it blossoms forth. 

Naniwa is the old name of Osaka; the flower in question is the early-blooming plum 
blossom. Children in the Heian period were taught the poem for writing practice; 
accordingly the word ncmiwa(zu) was often used as an equivalent of ABC (e.g. in The 
Tale ofGenj'r. "She still does not know her naniwazu properly"); and by extension it 
could mean "elementary", "unformed". 

44. The original poem, which is included in the Kokin Shu was composed by Fujiwara no 
Yoshifusa while admiring some sprays of cherry blossom in a vase. It was inspired by 
pleasure at the success of his daughter, Akiko, who had become Emperor Montoku's 
principal consort, and the flower in his poem refers to the girl. By changing "flower" to 
"lord", Shonagon makes the poem refer to Emperor Ichijo. 

45. See App. 2. 

46. Because of its reference to having grown old. Shonagon had now reached the ripe old 
age of about thirty and was therefore, by Heian standards, well into her middle years. 

47. Imperial Lady: a consort of the Emperor or Crown Prince, ranking below the Second 
Empress but above the Imperial Concubines. 

Senyo Palace: building in the Imperial Palace compound, used as a residence for 
Imperial Ladies. 

The woman in question was Fujiwara no Yoshiko, a great favourite of Emperor 
Murakami's; she was noted both for her poetic talents and for her beauty, especially her 
long hair. 

48. Day of abstinence: one of the frequent inauspicious days determined by the Masters of 
Divination, when, according to current superstition, it was essential to stay indoors and, 
as much as possible, to abstain from all activities, including eating, sexual intercourse, 
and even such seemingly innocuous acts as reading a letter. Particularly strict rules 
applied to what the Emperor did on these days. 

49. Go: a fascinating, complicated game, introduced from China in the eighth century. It is 
played with black and white stones on a board with 361 intersections (19 X 19). The two 
players take turns in placing their stones on any suitable intersection. Once a stone has 
been placed, it cannot be moved to another intersection; stones that have been 
encircled by the enemy, however, are forfeit unless they are so placed that they 
themselves enclose at least two independent and viable openings or "eyes". 

Go stones were frequently used as counters for scoring games and contests. 

50. Attendant: the following three ranks of women officials served in the Naishi no Tsukasa 
(Palace Attendants" Office): (i) two Chief Attendants, (ii) four Assistant Attendants, ( ui) 
four Attendants. Under them came one hundred women. In Shonagon's time the two 
top posts were occupied by concubines of the Emperor; in the present passage she 
refers to the third category of official. 

51. High Court Noble: a designation for all gentlemen of the Third Rank and above, as well 
as for Imperial Advisers of the Fourth Rank, but not usually applied to the Chancellor or 
the Regent. 

52. Gosechi: Court dances performed in the Eleventh Month by young girls of good family 
(App. 1). Of the four girls who participated in the dances, three were the daughters of 
High Court Nobles and one (as in the present passage) the daughter of a provincial 

53. These nets were designed for catching whitebait during the winter; in spring-time they 
were useless. 

54. Dresses of this colour could be worn only during the Eleventh and Twelfth Months. 

55. Scholarly activities, like most other specialized occupations, tended to run in families; 
and they were not considered suitable for girls (see W.S.P., pp. 220-21). 

When reading these lists, we must remember that the word mono can refer to both 
things and people; Depressing Things and People would be a more comprehensive 
translation of the heading. 

56. Katatagae (avoidance of an unlucky direction): when a Master of Divination informed 
one that a certain direction (e.g. north) was "blocked up" by one of the invisible, moving 
deities that were central to Heian superstition (W.S .P., p. 138), one might circumvent 
the danger by first proceeding in a different direction (e.g. west); after stopping on the 
way at an intermediate place and staying there at least, until midnight, one would 
continue to one's intended destination (e.g. by going north-east). People would also 
leave their house for a katatagae because they wished to obtain release from some 
future taboo, abstinence, or prohibition, even though they had no particular desire to go 
anywhere at the time. By performing such a seemingly gratuitous katatagae, they were 
freed in advance from the baleful effect that one of the moving divinities might exert if 
they remained at home or indulged in some tabooed activity like ground-breaking. Such 
moves were especially common during the Seasonal Change that followed the onset of 
the Great Cold in the early part, of the year; though this was a festive period, a 
particularly large number of inauspicious spirits was abroad: "On the eve of the [Spring] 
Seasonal Change all sorts of ceremonies took place, and feasts were held to celebrate 
the occasion. Moreover, it was customary for everyone, including the Emperor, the 
Retired Emperor, the Empress Dowager, and the Great Ministers, to perform katatagae-, 
these were known as the " katatagae of the Seasonal Change". Katatagae were riot 
limited to occasions on which people wished to travel abroad, but also took place on 
those inauspicious days when they had" to be absent from their homes [because of the 
unlucky position of one of the moving deities]. At such times they would go and stay in 
the house of an acquaintance - for a couple of days in the case of a short katatagae, for 
seven or even forty-nine days in the case of a long one." (Kochu Nihon Bungaku Taikei, 
xxv, 211.) Thieves often took advantage of these beliefs to enter their victims' house 
when they knew that the master and his family would have to be absent because of a 

The traveller who stopped at someone's house during the the performance of any 
katatagae was normally accorded a special welcome and friendly entertainment. 

57. Apart from official correspondence the two main types of formal letters were "knotted" 
and "twisted". Both were folded lengthwise into a narrow strip; but, whereas the 
knotted kind was knotted in the middle or at one end, some- times with a sprig of 
blossoms stuck into the knot, the twisted kind was twisted at both ends and tended to 
be narrower. A few thick lines of ink were drawn over the knot or fold by way of a seal. 

58. The aim of the exorcist was to transfer the evil spirit from the, afflicted person to the 
medium, who was usually a young girl or woman, and to force it to declare itself. He 
made use of various spells and incantations so that the medium might be possessed by 
the Guardian Demon of Buddhism. When he was successful, the medium would 
tremble, scream, have convulsions, faint, or behave as if in a hypnotic trance. The spirit 
would then declare itself through her mouth. The final step was to drive the spirit out of 
the medium. See W.S.P., pp. 147-52. 

59. One watch was the equivalent of two hours. 

60. i.e., appointments to provincial governorships. Despite the low social status of 
provincial officials, these posts could be extremely lucrative. 

61. The messengers cannot bring themselves to announce in so many words that their 
master has failed to obtain an appointment; instead they answer by giving his existing 
tide, which he had hoped to shed in favour of the new one. 

62. When one received a poem, it was de rigueur, to reply promptly by a "return" poem in 
which one would normally ring the changes on some central image. A failure to reply (or 
at least to have a friend, relation, colleague, etc. make a reply in one's place) was 
regarded as the height of rudeness. It was socially permissible not to answer love 
poems, but this of course signified that one was totally uninterested in the sender. 

63. On the third, fifth, and seventh days after a child's birth it was customary for the 
grandparents and other members of the family to send presents of swaddling-clothes. 
Presents were also given to people leaving on a journey. Originally it was the custom for 
the traveller's friends to see him off personally and, just before he left, they would turn 
his mount's head in the direction for which he was bound. This is the origin of the word 
used to describe the parting present: "turning the horse's nose". Later it became 
customary to send a messenger with presents of food, etc., rather than to go oneself. 
Messengers were originally rewarded by having a gift of clothing (an early form of 
currency) put on their shoulders; hence "placed on the shoulders", the name for 
rewards given to a messenger. In later times other forms of compensation were given 
(W.S.P., p. 87). 

64. Herbal balls: during the Iris Festival in the Fifth Month various kinds of herbs were 
bound into balls and put into round cotton or silk bags, which were decorated with irises 
and other plants, as well as with long, five-coloured cords; they were then hung on 
pillars, curtains, etc. to protect the inhabitants of the house from illness and other 
misfortunes. They stayed there until the Chrysanthemum Festival in the Ninth Month, 
when they were changed for balls decorated with chrysanthemum leaves, which were 

left hanging until the Iris Festival in the following year. A close Western equivalent is the 
asafoetida bag, worn about the neck to ward off illness. 

Hare-sticks: three-inch sticks with long, coloured tassels presented at the New Year to 
keep away evil spirits. They were hung on pillars in the Palace and in the houses of the 
nobility on the fourth day of the month, which corresponded to the First Day of the 
Hare (App. I). Both the herbal balls and the hare-sticks were of Chinese origin. 

65. That is to say, he has still not made his wife pregnant. 

66. There was a strong prejudice against taking naps in the day- time (W.S.P., p. 297); the 
practice was considered especially undignified and, unaesthetic for elderly people. 

67. Because it interfered with the many New Year's celebrations. 

68. Fasting was enjoined by the Buddhist church on the eighth, fourteenth, fifteenth, 
twenty-third, twenty-ninth, and thirtieth of each month. There were also periods of 
abstinence in the First, Fifth and Ninth Months; and on certain special occasions, when 
people wished to expiate serious offences, they would undertake fasts lasting 100 or 
1000 days. The efficacy of the entire fast was sacrificed if one violated the restrictions 
for a single day. 

69. This was the Leaf-turning Month, i.e. the second month of autumn (App. I). A white 
under-robe was normally worn only in the summer months. As a rule Shonagon and her 
contemporaries strongly disapproved of anything that deviated from the seasonal or 
diurnal routines. The first three items in the present list belong to the same category. 

70. Hunting costume: men's informal outdoor costume, originally worn for hunting. 

71. Eboshi (tall, lacquered hat): black, lacquered head-dress worn by men on the top of the 
head and secured by a mauve silk cord that was fastened under the chin; two long black 
pendants hung down from the back of the hat. The eboshi was a most conspicuous form 
of headgear and hardly suited for a clandestine visit. 

72. lyo blind: a rough type of reed blind manufactured in the province of lyo on the Inland 
Sea. Head-blind: a more elegant type of blind whose top and edges were decorated with 
strips of silk. It also had thin strips of bamboo along the edges and was therefore 
heavier than ordinary blinds. 

73. Sneezing was a bad omen, and it was normal to counteract its effects by reciting some 
auspicious formula, such as wishing long life to the person who had sneezed (cf. "Bless 
you!" in the West). 

74. Owasu ("good enough to do") and notamau ("kindly remarked") designate the actions 
of a superior; haberu (lit. "to serve") is used to describe one's own or someone else's 
actions in relation to a superior. See my Dictionary of Selected Forms in Classical 
Japanese Literature until c. 1330, App. IV. 

The correct use of honorific, polite, and humble locutions was of course enormously 
important in a strictly hierarchic society. In the present passage the sentence beginning 
"No doubt..." is ironic. 

75. Etiquette demanded that in the presence of the Emperor or Empress one referred to 
oneself by one's name rather than by the first person singular. One referred to other 

people by their real names; if Their Majesties were not present, however, one referred 
to these people by their offices (e.g. Major Counsellor). On the whole, personal 
pronouns were avoided and this added to the importance of correct honorific usage. 

76. Paper: elegant coloured paper that gentlemen carried in the folds of their clothes. It 
served for writing notes and was also used like an elegant sort of Kleenex. 

77. Takasago: well-known folk-song that starts. 

Ah, the jewel-like camellia 
And the jewel-like willow 
That grow in Takasago 
Upon Saisago Hill... 

78. Suketada's father, who belonged to the Southern Branch of the Fujiwara family, was 
Governor of Owari; his mother appears to have come from a humble family in that 
region. Suketada was adopted by a more influential branch of the Fujiwara family and 
managed to rise in the hierarchy until he became Governor of Yamato. 

79. "Who can stand next to...?": lit. "He has no one on his left or right." This has a double 
meaning: (i) no one is his match (in roughness), (ii) no one wants to be near him 
(because of his rough manners). Owari, in eastern Japan, was noted for the uncouthness 
of its inhabitants. 

80. The Kamo Festival was also known as the Hollyhock Festival (Aoi Matsuri). During the 
celebrations (see note 14) hollyhock was attached to the pillars, blinds, etc. and left 
there until it withered and fell off. Hollyhock was also used to decorate people's hair 
and head-dresses. "I am grateful to Professor Cranston for pointing out (Harvard Journal 
of Asiatic Studies, vol. xxix, p. 260) that the aoi used in connexion with the Kamo Festival 
was not althea rosea (hollyhock) but asarum caulescens, which is a form of snake-weed 
or bistort with paired, flesh-coloured flowers. A more accurate translation of Aoi 
Matsuri would therefore be Bistort Festival, but I trust botanists will not be offended if I 
call it Hollyhock Festival. 

81. To find dolls or any of the other things used during the Hina Asobi (Display of Dolls) 
would be like coming across a box of old Christmas decorations. 

82. Deep violet: another reminder of the Kamo Festival. A piece of material from a costume 
to be worn at the Festival turns up between the pages of a notebook, where it has been 
lying for months or perhaps even years. 

83. Paper fan: a fan covered with paper on one side of the frame and used in the summer 
months. When open, it looked like a bat with spread-out wings. Coming upon this fan, 
perhaps during the winter, Shonagon is reminded of something that happened in the 

84. In Japan, as in China, the moon traditionally evokes memories of the past. 

85. The wickerwork carriage was a lighter, less impressive form of vehicle, covered with a 
reed or bamboo trellis. 

86. Shonagon refers here to relatively low-ranking members of the Emperor's Private 
Office. During the six years of their tenure they had access to Seiryo Palace, where they 

attended the Emperor at his meals and performed similar duties. If at the end of their 
six years there was no possibility of pro- motion, they normally retired, or "went down" 
as the expression was. It was, in other words, a case of "up or out". As a sort of 
compensation they were elevated from the Sixth to the Fifth Rank; they were, however, 
no longer allowed to attend the Emperor in the Senior Courtiers" Chamber. Such ex- 
Chamberlains were known as Fifth Rank Chamberlains. They should not be confused 
with the Chamberlains of the Fifth Rank, who had obtained the coveted promotion 
while still in office and who thus had a chance of climbing to the highest rungs of the 
administrative ladder. 

87. Taboo tags: a sign made of willow-wood and hung outside one's house on days of 
abstinence (note 48) to warn possible visitors. If one was obliged to venture abroad on 
one of these days, one would wear such a tag on one's head-dress (men) or sleeve 

88. This probably refers to women's carriages. Ladies usually remained in their carriages 
during the service, and the retired Chamberlains are not too pious to have a good look. 
According to one commentator however, they are actually looking at their own 
carriages to make sure that they have been placed in a better position than those of the 
other visitors. In any case their minds are far from religion. 

89. Eight Lessons: a series of eight services in which the eight volumes of the Lotus Sutra 
were expounded. Two services were held each day, one in the morning and one in the 
after- noon. The commentary normally took the form of a sort of catechism, in which 
one priest would ask questions about important sections of the sutra and another would 

Dedication of Sutras: refers to the practice of ordering copies of the sutra to be made 
and dedicated to some person or institution or to the Three Treasures (Sambo), the 
Buddha, the Law, and the Priesthood. The Chinese characters were usually written in 
silver or gold on heavy white or dark-blue paper. After the copy was completed, the 
sutra would be recited in a special service of dedication. 

90. "Jar", costume: costume worn by women for pilgrimages and other journeys; it 
comprises a long cloak and a large, basket- shaped hat. 

91. Eight Lessons for Confirmation: Eight Lessons carried out in order to confirm people in 
the Buddhist vocation. The ceremony, which lasted from four to five days, included 
morning and evening services. 

92. The service of the Eight Lessons included a scattering of lotus blossoms, and 
Shonagon's poem was written on a paper lotus used for this purpose. It contains a pun 
on oku— (i) to settle (of dew), (ii) to depart. I have tried to suggest its effect by the pun 
on "leave". 

93. The story of Hsiang Chung is told in Lieh hsien chucm, a collection of biographies of 
Taoist immortals. One day the old man was so absorbed in his study of a Taoist text that 
he did not realize that the river had flooded and he was surrounded by water: 
meanwhile his family waited impatiently for him at home. 

94. Women normally remained in their carriages during the service; unless they were 
placed fairly close, they had little chance of hearing. 

95. Ministers of the Left and Right: the two highest posts (apart from Prime Minister) in the 
administrative hierarchy. (App. 2). 

96. Michitaka refers to a poem about a man who was always looking for qualities and 
charms where they could not reasonably be expected: 

The straightest tree 

Grows many a crooked branch: 

Foolish it is to blow the hair 
And so uncover faults. 

That is to say, since even the best objects and people in this world have imperfections, 
there is no point in expecting normal things or people to be ideal; rather we should 
leave well enough alone. In this particular case Yoshichika has expected too much from 
the unknown woman in the carriage: by demanding a good poem ("straightening the 
branches") he has spoiled everything ("broken the tree"). The way in which Michitaka 
changes the reference to the tree imagery, while retaining the central point of the 
original verse, is typical of the technique of poetic quotation in Shonagon's time. 

97. Set of robes: set of unlined silk robes worn by women and usually matched to produce a 
subtle blending of colours. The sleeves of each dress were normally longer than those of 
the one over it. When travelling in carriages, women often let the sleeves of their 
various robes hang outside the blinds; this allowed Shooagon to see exactly what the 
unknown lady wore. 

98. Yoshichika is referring to a passage in the Lotus Sutra, the main text of that morning's 
service, in which the Buddha comments to his disciple, Sariputra, on the fact that 5000 
people in his congregation have left while he was in the middle of preaching: "People of 
such pride do well to depart." Shonagon picks up the reference with her usual acumen, 
and implies that Yoshichika, by using the Buddha's own words, is no less guilty of pride 
than the people who left. 

99. In the Heian period rooms were not covered with straw mats as became normal in later 
times; instead mats were spread out when and where they were needed for sleeping, 
sitting, etc. 

100. Kicho (curtains of state) were usually classified in terms of the length of the horizontal 
wooden bar from which the curtains were suspended. A three foot curtain of state 
normally had five widths of curtain. 

On a hot summer nights it was advisable to place one's kicho in as cool a part of the 
room as possible, i.e. near the veranda. Besides, since the main purpose of the kicho 
was to protect women from prying eyes, it would be illogical to place it in the rear of the 
room where people were unlikely to be looking at one from behind. 

101. It was customary in Shonagon's time to use clothes as bed- covers; also it was normal 
to sleep fully dressed. The two sets of clothing described in this paragraph are, 
respectively, the woman's bedclothes and her dress. The present scene evidently takes 

place in the Imperial Palace; the philandering gentleman is able to peep into the lady's 
quarters as he walks along, the corridor on his way back from his own tryst. 

102. Heian women usually let their long, thick hair hang loosely down their backs. The 
closer it reached the floor, the more beautiful they were considered. For the aesthetic 
significance of women's hair see W.S.P., p. 215. 

103. It was an essential part of Heian etiquette for the man to write a love-letter to the lady 
with whom he had spent the night; it usually included a poem and was attached to a 
spray of some appropriate, flower. The letter had to be sent as soon as the man 
returned home or, if he was on duty, as soon as he reached his office. The lady was of 
course expected to send a prompt reply. If the man failed to send a letter, it normally 
meant that he had no desire to continue the liaison. 

104. From the poem. 

The sprouts of the cherry-flax 

In the flax fields 

Are heavy now with dew. 

I shall stay with you till dawn 
Though your parents be aware. 

The expression "cherry-flax" is found in a similar poem in the Manyo Shu and refers (i) 
to the fact that flax was sown at the same time that the cherries blossomed, (ii) to the 
similarity in appearance between cherry blossoms and the leaves of flax., The gallant 
dech.res that he will stay with the girl until daylight, though this probably means that 
her parents will find out about his visit. His ostensible reason is that it is hard to make 
his way through the heavy morning dew (a standard euphuism); the real motive, of 
course, is his reluctance to leave the partner of his night's pleasures. "Dew on the 
sprouts" may have a secondary erotic implication such as one frequently finds in early 
Japanese love poems. 

105. i.e., the house of the woman with the long hair and the orange robe. 

106. If the man was sensitive to the beauty of the dew, he would want to leave at early 
dawn before it had disappeared. The real reason for early departures, of course, was 
fear of discovery; but pretty conceits of this type were common. 

107. As a rule a Heian woman of the upper class would not let herself be seen by a man 
unless she was actually having an affair with him - and not always then. They were 
usually protected by curtains of state, screens, fans, etc., and above all by the darkness 
of the rooms. 

108. U no hana\ a shrub with white blossoms, something like the syringa; it blossoms in the 
Fourth Month (App. I) at about the time of the Kamo Festival, when hototogisu (note 
15) were most frequently heard. Deutzia scabra, its Linnaean equivalent, brutally 
conceals the poetic connotations that the plant has in Japan, and I prefer to leave the 
word in the original. 

109. Murasaki [No]: a famous plain north of the capital, named after its gromwell 
( murasoki ); it was the site of the Kamo Shrines (see App. 3b). 

110. In the Far East animals and plants often, have traditional affinities, e.g. in China the 
tiger and bamboo, the lion and peonies, the phoenix and paulownias. Several early 
Japanese poems suggest such an affinity between the hototogisu and the orange tree. 
The following Manyo Shu verse is an example: 

Ah, my beloved whom I met in the Rice-sprouting Month, 

When the hototogisu lurked 

In the mountain's flowering orange tree! 

The hototogisu is also associated with u no hana flowers (note 108); and the uguisu has 
an affinity with plum trees. 

111. It was customary to attach flowers or leaves to one's letters; the choice depended on 
the season, the dominant mood of the letter, the imagery of the poem it contained, and 
the colour of the paper. See W.S.P., p. 199. 

112. "A spray of pear blossom in spring, covered with drops of rain": reference to "The Song 
of Everlasting Regret", a famous poem by the great Tang writer, Po Chu-i, who was by 
far the most popular Chinese author in Shonagon's Japan and. Dr Waley points out 
(W.P.B., p. ISI), the easiest. It tells the story of the tragic love between the Chinese 
Emperor" and his favourite concubine, the beautiful Yang Kuei-fei, who according to one 
version was hanged from a pear- tree by mutinous troops in 7 s6 owing to her alleged" 
responsibility for the Emperor's neglect of state affairs and to the unpopularity of her 
scheming family. The grief- stricken Emperor sends a Taoist magician to look for the lost 
lady; but, though the messenger finds her, he is unable to bring her back. Here 
Shonagon refers to the passage in which Yang Kuei-fei comes forth to meet the 

Her face, delicate as jade-, is desolate beneath the heavy tears. 

Like a spray of pear blossom in spring, veiled in drops of rain. 

It appears, however, that Shonagon had misunderstood the Chinese original, in which 
Yang Kuei-fei's beauty is compared to that of jade, the pear blossom being introduced 
only to evoke her pallor. This is one of several instances that have led commentators to 
question Shonagon's reputed erudition in the Chinese classics. 

113. i.e., the fabulous phoenix, whose appearance presaged the advent of a virtuous 
Emperor. This splendid, five-coloured bird was said to dwell in paulownia trees. 

114. At the time of the Iris Festival. The Melia japonica has small, violet flowers. 

115. This was one of the Five Festivals; it dated from the early seventh century and was 
known as Ayame no Sekku or Iris Festival (App. 1). The fifth of the month was regarded 
as an inauspicious day, and many of the festival observances were aimed at warding off 
evil spirits. Herbal balls, decorated with irises, were hung on the horses to protect the 
inhabitants from illness and also attached to the sleeves of people's clothes (see note 
64); the eaves were covered with iris leaves and branches of mugwort, which were also 
believed to have prophylactic virtues. The Emperor, wearing a garland of irises, gave 
wine, in which iris root had been steeped, to his high officials; the gentlemen of the 
Court put irises on their head-dresses and the women wore irises in their hair. Irises 

were also attached to clothes and to all kinds of objects in daily use—palanquins, 
swords, pillows, wine-cups, etc.—and placed under the pillow. Abstinence signs were 
used as a further protection. The officers of the Guards, who were responsible for 
supplying the various palaces with irises and mugwort for the occasion, brought the 
festival to an end with a ceremonial twanging of their bow-strings to scare away any evil 
spirits that might still be hovering in the precincts. 

116. Bureau of the Wardrobe: one of the bureaux under the Ministry of Central Affairs 

( App. 2 ). Among other things it was responsible for supplying clothes to the Imperial 
Princesses and noblewomen in the Palace. 

Curtain-dais: a platform or dais about two feet high and nine feet square, surrounded by 
four pillars and by curtains. Curtains of state (kicho) were placed on three sides of the 
dais, and the platform itself was covered with straw mats and cushions. The curtain-dais 
was used by the master of the house for sleeping and was also the place where he 
normally sat in the day-time. In the Imperial Palace it served as a sort of throne. 

117. Chinese hawthorn, literally "tree on the side". The Chinese hawthorn turns red at the 
beginning of the summer instead of in the autumn; it is therefore very conspicuous. 

118. Being dependent on the strength of other trees, the para- site's existence is 
precarious; hence it is aware ("moving", "pitiful"). For a discussion of aware see W.S.P., 
pp. 207-8. 

119. After sunset on the day of the Kamo Festival sacred Shinto dances were performed in 
the Palace in the presence of the Emperor. The sakaki is the sacred tree of the Shinto 
religion and plays an important part in the dances and other Shintoist observances. The 
present-day sakaki corresponds to the cleyera, but the consensus of scholars is that it 
was originally an anise tree. . 

120. Reference to the poem: 

One thousand branches grow 

Upon the camphor tree in Izumi's Shinoda Wood- 

A branch for each sad care that troubles those who love. 

121. Lit. "it is not familiar to people" because it usually grows deep in the hills. Shonagon 
refers to the following old song Rich indeed has this palace grown. To three ridges, four 
ridges, do its roof extend. The dew dripping from the leaves of the cypress and the wind 
blowing through its branches both sound like rain. Shonagon specifies the Fifth Month 
since that is the beginning of the rainy season. 

122. Large-leaved cypress or Thuya dalobrata. Its name literally means "tomorrow [he will 
be]a cypress". 

123. Shonagon refers to the poem. 

Climbing the arduous mountain path, 

I lose my way. 

For the snow from the white oaks 
Has fallen on the craggy slope 
And clad the trail in white. 

So far as we know, this has no connexion whatsoever with the Storm God (Susanoo no 
Mikoto, "His Impetuous Male Augustness") or with his journey to Izumo in the west of 
Japan after his expulsion from the Plain of High Heaven. In Shonagon's time, however, it 
was evidently believed that Hitomaro wrote this poem to commemorate the hardships 
that God suffered when he was caught in a snowstorm on his way westward across the 
steep mountains. The accounts of Susanoo in the chronicles contain no mention of the 
white oak, but the God is described as having performed dances holding the branches of 
certain other trees. 

124. Yuzuriha : the Linnaean equivalent is Daphniphyllum macropodum, but I prefer the 
Japanese word. 

In Heian times the Buddhist Festival of the Spirits was celebrated on the last day of the 
year (App. 1). The spirits of the dead returned to earth at noon on this day and left at 
six o'clock in the morning of New Year's Day. 

Among the many New Year's customs was that of tooth- hardening. This was observed 
in the Palace on the second day of the year, when the Imperial Table Office prepared 
certain special dishes, such as melon, radish, rice-cakes, and ayu fish, which were 
supposed to strengthen the teeth. This in fact had the same purpose as many other New 
Year practices, viz. the promotion of health and longevity. Evidently the tooth-hardening 
foods were served on yuzuriha leaves. This strikes Shonagon as strange since the same 
leaves were used to serve the food for the dead. 

The poem about the yuzuriha that Shonagon cites in this paragraph is: 

When the leaves of the sheltering yuzuriha 
On the plain of Kasuga 
Turn red- 

Not till then shall I forget you. 

"Full of promises" refers to this poem. The yuzuriha is an evergreen. 

125. Lit. "the god who protects the leaves". This god was believed to inhabit the Mongolian 
oak, a tree that the ancient Japanese appear to have regarded with particular awe. Cf. 
the following poem in Yamato Monogatari. The speaker is a man who is paying a secret 
visit to a married woman and who has mistakenly broken off the twig of an oak to give 
her; the "God of Leaves" represents the cuckolded husband: 

Not knowing what I did. 

From the oak where dwells the God of Leaves 
I broke a twig. 

Oh, grant that I be spared 
The punishment for my deed! 

It is not clear why the officers of the Middle Palace Guards (Hyoe no Suke Zo) were 
referred to as "oaks". Kamo no Mabuchi suggests that it is because they were held in 
particular respect, but from what we know of the prestige of the Guards regiments this 
seems dubious. Kaneko ( Hyoshaku , p. 242) mentions that in the past an oak had grown 

outside the Headquarters of the Middle Palace Guards, and this would appear to be a 
more likely explanation. 

126. Objects "in the Chinese style" were to be found only in the houses and gardens of the 

127. Parrots had been imported from Korea in earlier times as tribute, but they appear to 
have died out by Shonagon's time and it is unlikely that she had ever actually seen one; 
hence the vagueness of this sentence. 

128. Because it sees itself in the mirror and thinks it is its mate. The copper pheasant is said 
to have been introduced from China. It was recommended for its beautiful voice, but on 
arrival at the Palace (so the story goes) it refused to sing. A certain Court lady explained 
that this was because the pheasant missed its mate. She ordered that a mirror be hung 
in the cage, and the bird immediately began singing. 

129. Shonagon is thinking of the following poem: 

In Takashima even the herons of Yurugi Wood, 

Where the branches quiver in the wind. 

Refuse to nest alone 

And keenly seek a partner for the night. 

Yet... [I, alas, must spend the night alone], 

130. Box bird: the bird is mentioned in contemporary poetry and also in The Tale ofGenji; 
but its identity is unclear. Its name may be an onomatopoeia derived from a 
characteristic cry of hayako-hayako. 

131. Mandarin duck: the traditional symbol of conjugal love in the Far East. Cf. the poem: 

The mandarin ducks, the husband and his mate. 

Brush from each other's wings the frost. 

How sad if one is left to sleep alone! 

132. Refers to the poem: 

Autumn is here 

And with it comes the plover's cry- 
The plover who has lost his mate 
On Sao River's misty banks. 

133. Refers to: 

In Saitama In Osaki Marsh 
The wild duck flaps its wings. 

Striving to sweep away the frost 
That has settled on its tail. 

Shonagon has substituted wing for tail. 

134. Uguisu : usually translated "nightingale", but this is misleading since the uguisu does 
not sing at night and is far closer to the Western bush warbler (cf. hototogisu, note 15). 

135. See note 110. 

136. Perhaps Shonagon is thinking of the following poem. 

Since the morning of this day 

That ushered in the fresh New Year 
I have waited for one sound alone- 
The sound of the uguisu's song. 

In the traditional calendar the year began with spring. 

137. Ice was stored in ice-chambers and eaten during the summer (for instance in sherbets) 
or used to preserve perishable food. The stems and leaves of the liana were used for 
mild sweetening; sugar was not introduced into Japan until the Ashikaga period. 

138. Chi-chi is the characteristic sound of the basket worm as well as the word for "milk". 
The insect in question is a psychidoe; it was called "straw-coat insect" because of the 
nest in which it is wrapped. This nest is made chiefly of dirt. 

139. "Hateful Things", section 14. 

140. In ancient Japan people were often named after animals. Haemaro (in which hae 
means "fly") was probably given to members of the lower orders because of its 
unpleasant associations. 

141. A rather curious passage, especially in view of Shonagon's usual fastidiousness. 
According to Kaneko (Hyoshaku, p. 2 57), it implies, not that she enjoyed the smell of 
sweat as such, but that she liked familiar clothes to cover herself when sleeping (see 
note 101); but this seems a quibble. 

142. Because such beauty is wasted on hoi polloi and inappropriate to their gross nature. 

143. Plain waggon: lit. "carriage without a compartment", i.e. a carriage used to convey 
goods, not people. 

144. Quiver Bearers: another name for the Outer Palace Guards one of the three Guards 
regiments stationed in the Greater Imperial Palace; it patrolled the grounds and carried 
out police duties in conjunction with the Imperial Police. As this passage suggests, these 
guards were regarded with some trepidation. The Tale of Genji also refers to the 
"terrifying red clothes" of the Quiver Bearers. 

145. Imperial Police: established in the ninth century as one of the many departures from 
the Chinese administrative system. Originally they were responsible for apprehending 
criminals, but their functions gradually extended into the judicial field, and, as Sansom 
points out (History, i. 208), they "built up a body of case law of their own". The 
hierarchy consisted of a Chief, four Assistant Directors, four Lieutenants, etc. (App. 2). 
One of the Lieutenants could hold the additional past of Chamberlain in the Emperor's 
Private Office; in this capacity he had access to the Senior Courtiers' Chamber and was 
therefore known as "Lieutenant of the Courtiers' Chamber". 

Shonagon obviously resented these parvenu police officers who, despite their low rank, 
were allowed to swagger about the Palace buildings without proper regard for decorum, 
and who even had affairs with Court ladies of much higher rank than themselves. 

146. Most of the ladies-in-waiting occupied rooms off the long, narrow corridors on both 
sides of the Palace buildings and in the rear. 

147. Incense was normally used to perfume the blinds, screens, and other furnishings in 
upper-class houses. Often the burner itself was hidden behind a screen or in a 
neighbouring room so that the visitor could not tell where the smoke was originating. 
Indiscreet as it may seem, it was normal for male visitors to hang their trouser-skirts 
over the curtain of state belonging to the lady they were visiting. Officers of the Outer 
Palace Guards wore white trouser-skirts, of heavy, rough cloth. 

148. These weapons were used mainly for ceremonies, processions, and the like. 

149. The Controllers were among the most important and busy officials in the government 
(see App. 2). So that they could move about more freely, they were allowed trains that 
were considerably shorter than those normally worn by people of their rank. 

150. Empress's Office: this building, situated to the north-east of the Imperial Palace, 
housed several offices of the Ministry of Central Affairs, the most important of these 
being the Office of the Empress's Household. The Emperor often lived in the Empress's 
Office when his own Palace had burnt down; it was also frequently occupied by his 
consorts, especially by Empress Sadako. 

151. Ben no Naishi: one of Empress's Sadako's ladies-in-waiting. From the context it 
appears that she was a mistress of the Major Controller; hence perhaps the element 
Ben (Controller) in her name. 

152. That business: i.e. Ben no Naishi's relations with the Major Controller. 

153. Yukinari refers to a story in Si-ma Chien's Shih chi. When Yu Jang's lord, the Earl of 
Chih, had been killed by Viscount Hsiang of Chao, he promised to avenge him; for, as he 
said, "A knight dies for one who has shown him friendship. A woman, [continues to] 
yield to one who has taken pleasure in her. Now the Earl of Chih showed me friendship. 

I will certainly avenge him and die." Yu Jang, having failed in two attempts to kill 
Viscount Hsiang, took his own life. 

It is interesting that Yukinari should reverse the order of Yu Jang's dictum: in the Heian 
world the warrior-lord relationship was far less important than a woman's obligation to 
her lover. 

154. The reference is to a poem in the Manyo Shu: 

Oh, the willow tree 
On Ado River in Totomi 
Where the hail comes down! 

Oh, the willow on Ado River- 
Though it be felled. 

It grows again, so people say. 

155. Her eyes were turned up: i.e. rather than being thin and narrow, which was the mark 
of the classical Heian beauty. Women plucked their eyebrows, and thick eyebrows were 
regarded as repulsive. The nose was supposed to be small, delicate, and up-turned, the 
chin and neck shapely and well-rounded. See W.S.P., pp. 213-17, for the criteria of 
feminine beauty in Heian times. 

156. Shonagon deliberately echoes the advice given by Fujiwara no Morosuke to his 
descendants: "In all matters, whether it be Court costumes or carriages, take things as 
they are and use them accordingly. On no account seek out new luxuries." Shonagon 
refers, not to frugality, but to the importance of adapting oneself to circumstances. 

157. Reference to the Analects of Confucius: "If you are wrong, do not be afraid to correct 

158. Despite the sexual licence of the period, adult women, normally hid themselves from 
men behind screens, fans, etc., except at the most intimate moments. This concealment 
applied even to their fathers and brothers (cf. notes 22, 107, and W.S.P., p. 222). 

159. Gentlemen of the Fourth Rank and above wore black over- robes. Noritaka, who 
belonged to the Sixth Rank, would have worn green, but in the semi-darkness this could 
easily have been mistaken for black. 

160. Fujiwara no Noritaka, the elder brother of Nobutaka (Murasaki Shikibu's husband), was 
at this time a Chamber- lain; later he was promoted to the post of Major Controller of 
the Left. The reason that the ladies do not mind being seen by Noritaka is that he 
belongs to the Sixth Rank; Yukinari is of the Fourth Rank and therefore a far more 
awesome figure. 

161. Every night at ten o'clock there was a roll-call of the high- ranking courtiers on duty in 
Seiryo Palace, followed by a muster of the Imperial Guards of the Emperor's Private 
Office, who, as they approached, would twang their bow- strings to scare away the evil 
spirits. When the Officer of the Guards, kneeling on the wide balcony outside the 
Imperial residence, called out, "Who is present?" they all twanged their bow-strings and 
then announced their names in turn. Since the lattice windows were all closed at night, 
Shonagon and her companions could not actually see the roll-call and muster; as a result 
the impressions in this passage are mainly auditory. 

162. Minamoto no Masahiro, a Chamberlain and subsequently governor of Awa Province, 
appears in The Pillow Book as a gauche, ludicrous figure, and Shonagon obviously enjoys 
describing his solecisms. Here, instead of listening to the report of the Officer of the 
Guards and then retiring with silent dignity as was the custom on these occasions, 
Masahiro feels that he must comment angrily on the absences, even though in the past 
he went to the opposite extreme of not listening to the report at all. In the following 
paragraph he commits the appalling gaffe of leaving his shoes on the board "where the 
Imperial meals were served, having presumably mistaken it for a shoe-shelf. Since 
ancient times the Japanese have regarded shoes as ritually unclean objects, and 
Masahiro's carelessness therefore calls for purgation. 

For more about Masahiro see section 72. 

163. Even Masahiro cannot bring himself to pronounce the name of something so (ritually) 
unclean as shoes. 

164. Because the lower part of their clothes is spattered with mud. For "shaded material" 
see note 16. 

165. Various grades of attendants were allotted to people according to their rank. A man of 
the Junior Fifth Rank, for example, received twenty official retainers. This, of course, 
represented an additional form of income. 

166. According to the chronicles, the deity Kamo no Wakiikatsuchi on the eve of his return 
to the Plain of High Heaven instructed his followers to decorate themselves with, holly¬ 
hock if they wished to ensure his return to earth. 

167. The name of this plant (itsumadegusa) has the literal meaning of "until-when? grass", 
with the implication that its existence is precarious. It usually grows on old walls, 
crumbling houses, etc. 

168. Kotonashigusa: lit. "nothing-wrong herb". Commentators have been unable to 
determine its identity. 

169. Shinobugusa : a type of fern or moss (Polypodium lineare) that grows mainly on rocks, 
old walls, tree stumps, etc. Its name has the literal sense of "the grass that endures 
[hard- ships]"; this is why Shonagon considers it pathetic. 

170. Shonagon refers to a well-known Taoist story. One day a woodcutter, Wang Chih, came 
on two sages playing a game of go in a mountain cave. He began watching them and 
was soon absorbed in their game. They were still playing when he saw to his amazement 
that the handle of his axe had rotted away. When he returned to his village, he found (in 
Rip Van Winkle fashion) that everyone he knew had been dead for years. After this 
disturbing discovery Wang Chih returned to the mountain and in the end joined the 
ranks of Taoist immortals. 

171. The bondage... the suffering: Buddhist terms referring, respectively, to the bondage of 
the flesh and to the suffering inherent in all life. Here, of course, they are used without 
any religious significance, rather in the way that we might say, "What a cross to bear!" 

172. Being members of the lower orders, they are unaware of good or evil; the words that 
issue from their mouths are closer to animal grunts than to the rational comments of 
human beings. 

173. Shonagon is thinking of the poem. 

He who does not speak his love. 

Yet feels its waters seething far below. 

Loves more than he who prates his every thought. 

The dismay of the attendants is all the greater for not being expressed in words. 

174. They say this in order to encourage their master to end his visit and return home. 

175. Fashionable women let the bottom of their many-layered costume protrude outside 
their curtain of state so that visitors might admire the colour combination. Here the 
curtain of state has been set up underneath a set of bright green blinds. 

176. Shonagon refers to one of the Special Festivals which had been celebrated since the 
end of the ninth century. They were held annually in the Eleventh Month at the Kamo 
Shrines, and in the Third Month at the Iwashimizu no Hachiman Shrine in the district of 
Tsuzuki south of the capital (App. 9c) and were called "special" to distinguish them from 
the Festival (note 14) in the Fourth Month. In the Tenth Month the messengers, envoys. 

dancers, and singers were chosen, and a series of rehearsals was organized. The festival 
itself took place in the Eleventh Month, and two days before its opening there was a 
formal rehearsal of dancing and music in front of Seiryo Palace. During the Kamo and 
Iwashimizu celebrations the dancers and singers proceeded from the Palace to the 
respective shrines, where they carried out their performances; they then returned to 
the Palace and, depending on the occasion (see note 370), performed an encore. 

177. Traditional song: 

Come, lads, let's pluck the rice-flowers from the freshly-planted fields 

And bear them to the Palace for our lord. 

178. The approach of a High Court Noble was heralded by prolonged cries of "Make way!"; 
the cries for a senior courtier, were shorter. 

179. "So on and so forth - and the voice of autumn speaks": the courtiers are reciting a 
Chinese poem by Minamoto no Hideakira: 

Fresh is the pond. 

Whose waters ban the summer's heat. 

In the wind that sways the towering pines 

The voice of autumn always speaks. 

180. Naming of the Buddhas: one of the last of the annual ceremonies, being celebrated in 
the various palaces towards the end of the Twelfth Month (App. 1). It dated from 774. 
The ceremony consisted of three services, each directed by a different Leader on three 
successive nights. It was aimed at expunging the sins one had committed during the 
course of the year. While the ceremony was being held, painted screens depicting the 
horrors of hell were set up in Seiryo Palace to remind the participants of the need for 

181. Thirteen-pipe flute: set of reeds comparable with the Panpipe; it was used mainly for 
Court music. According to some of the texts, Yukinari is a mistake for (Taira no) 
Yukiyoshi, a well-known flautist who at the time of this scene was a Captain in the 
Middle Palace Guards. 

182. "The music stops, but the player will not speak her name": quotation from Po Chu-i's 
famous "Song of the Lute" (Pipa hsing) describing his exile from the capital. One 
evening, when he is seeing off a friend whose boat is moored on a river, he hears the 
sound of the pipa (lute) from a neighbouring boat: 

Suddenly we hear the lute's voice on the water. 

At the plucking of its strings. 

The host forgets to go. 

And the guest too lingers on. 

We search the darkness, wondering who the player is. 

The music stops, but the player will not speak her name. 

183. Lit. "my guilt is fearful". Instead of contemplating the Buddhist paintings of hell, 
Shonagon is enthralled by the secular activities in the Empress's apartments. 

184. Fujiwara no Tadanobu was a successful official who attained the posts of Chief of the 
Imperial Police and Major Counsellor. He was one of the "Four Counsellors" known for 
their poetic talents. Tadanobu is frequently mentioned as one ofShonagon's chief 
lovers, but Waley (W.P.B., pp. 154-5) believes that their affair had already finished by 
the time she entered the Empress's service and that his position at Court was now too 
elevated for her to be on terms of easy familiarity with him. The reader can draw his 
own conclusions from the passages that follow. 

185. Black Door: door leading to the gallery at the north of Seiryo Palace, "Black Door" also 
referred to the gallery it- self. " 

186. Imperial Abstinence: when the Emperor went into retreat, certain important officials 
like the Captain First Secretary and the Controller First Secretary secluded themselves in 
Seiryo Palace with him and observed the rules of abstinence. 

187. Game of parts: a popular, upper-class game that consisted in guessing the identity of 
partially hidden characters in Chinese poems. One of the ladies might, for instance, 
cover the phonetic part of the character and the other ladies would try to guess it from 
the radical and from the context. 

188. These are the messenger's own words; instead of giving his name or saying who has 
sent him, he simply refers to himself as "a certain [person]". 

189. A tale from Ise: proverbial expression referring to stories that were strange or 
incredible. It apparently derived from the supposed unreliability of the inhabitants of 
Ise, rather than from any far-fetched quality in the episodes of "The Tales of Ise" (Ise 
Monogatari), but scholars disagree about the origins of the phrase. 

190. Lit. "during the flower season under the brocade dais". Tadanobu quotes a line from 
the third stanza of a poem that Po Chu-i wrote during his exile (note 182) to a friend 
who was still basking in the delights of the capital: 

With you it is flower time 
Where you sit in the Council Hall 
Beneath a curtain of brocade; 

Here in the mountains of Lu Shan 
The rain pours down all night 
Upon my grass-thatched hut. 

Although Shonagon knows the following line ("Here in the mountains...") perfectly well, 
she prefers to avoid Chinese characters, the so-called "men's writing". Instead she uses 
the phonetic script to write the last two lines (7-7 syllables) of a Japanese poem on the 
same theme; in her reply she implies that, since Tadanobu is angry with her, she can 
expect no visitors. To understand why Shonagon's reply was so successful we must 
remember that Chinese literature, even the poetry of such a popular writer as Po Chu-i, 
was supposed to be beyond women's ken. To send a Chinese poem to a woman was 
most unconventional; that is why Shonagon was at a complete loss. 

191. Grass Hut would be a most inappropriate name for anyone living in the Imperial 

Jade Tower is a further reference to Chinese literature. Here Shonagon uses it in 
opposition to "grass hut", echoing the contrast between the hut and the Council 
Chamber in Po Chu-i's poem. 

192. This was one of the many forms of poetic exchange current in fashionable circles. The 
standard Japanese poem consists of two main parts: (i) the beginning having three lines 
of 5-7-5 syllables, (ii) the end having two lines of 7-7. One could send either of these 
parts, inviting the recipient to provide the other. 

193. Office of Palace Repairs: office in charge of building and repair work in the Imperial 
Palace; (Assistant Master) ranked second among the officials in charge. Tachibana no 
Norimitsu: government official who rose to be Governor of Harima and later of Mutsu. 
He did not obtain his post in the Office of Palace Repairs until 996, one year after the 
present incident; such anachronisms are common in The Pillow Book. 

Norimitsu was on such friendly terms with Shonagon that people referred to him as her 
"elder brother", a term often used to describe a husband; he knew nothing of the all- 
important art of poetry, however, and a few years after the present incident Shonagon 
broke with him ( see pp. 87-98). The chronicles refer to his physical courage (on one 
occasion he arrested a bandit single-handed); but this did not count for much among 
"good people" of Heian. According to some scholars, Norimitsu was Shonagon's 
husband before she entered Court service, but, considering the way in which he is 
described in her book, this would appear unlikely. It seems more probable that 
Shonagon had several lovers, including Norimitsu, but never became a principal wife. 

194. It was not obligatory to reply to a reply. 

195. Lit. "[Palace of the] Plum-Tree Tub". It was one of the smaller buildings north of Seiryo 
Palace, and was usually occupied by Imperial con5orts. Many of the Palace buildings, 
especially those used by women, were named after the flowering shrubs planted in tubs 

196. For details about the avoidance of unlucky directions see note 56. In this case the 
southern direction was "closed" by the temporary presence of one of the moving 
divinities and Tadanobu had to stop at some intermediate point south-west of Kurama 
before returning to the capital. It was essential to reach the intermediate point before 
sunset, but one could leave it and proceed to one's destination at any time after 11 p.m. 
"Once the Hour of the Boar [i.e. 10-12 p.m.] has passed, one can continue one's journey; 
there is no need to wait until daybreak" (ShinteiZoho Konjitsu Sosho, xxii, 496). 
Therefore Tadanobu can reasonably expect to be back in the capital before dawn. 

197. Office of the Imperial Wardrobe: housed in Jogan Palace. Its main duty (overlapping 
with those of the Bureau of the Wardrobe, note 116) was to provide the robes worn by 
the Emperor and his wives. The Office was under a Mistress of the Robes, who was 
often one of the Emperor's secondary consorts. She was in charge of a number of Lady 
Chamberlains, low-ranking attendants who were responsible for sewing and for 
miscellaneous duties in the Palace. Here the incumbent is Empress Sadako's sister, the 
fourth daughter of Fujiwara no Michitaka. 

198. Shonagon was about thirty. 

Aesthetic convention demanded long, straight hair that hung over the shoulders in 
perfect order. 

199. For Michitaka, who had died some ten months earlier. 

200. West City: the section of the capital to the left (looking north) of the central north- 
south avenue (see App. 3c). It fell into an early decline, becoming overgrown with weeds 
and much frequented by footpads, while the main part of Heian Kyo expanded 

Although the temple that Tadanobu had visited lay north of the capital, he was obliged 
to spend part of the night in a house to the west in order to avoid an unlucky direction 
(note 196). This is why he reached Shonagon's house from the West City. 

201. Minamoto no Suzushi and Fujiwara no Nakatada were characters in Utsubo 
Monogatari ("The Tale of the Hollow Tree"), a long popular romance of the late tenth 
century, whose authorship has variously been attributed to the father of Murasaki 
Shikibu and to Minamoto no Shitagau. Nakatada, the handsome hero, was since his 
early youth noted for his musical gifts, which he displayed on a set of miraculous zithers. 
He was also distinguished for his filial piety: he looked after his unfortunate mother by 
feeding her on fish and the fruits of the forest, and even finding her a comfortable 
shelter in a hollow tree (which had thought- fully been abandoned by a family of bears 
who were, impressed by the young man's Confucian virtues). In the course of a 
pilgrimage Nakatada's father eventually dis- covered his wife and son and brought them 
back to the capital, where the hero enjoyed a brilliant career. 

Suzushi Nakatada's rival, was also a talented musician. His accomplishments were of 
course no match for the hero's, though on one occasion when he was playing the zither 
at dawn he managed to charm a heavenly maiden into descending from the sky for a 
short time and dancing to his music. It is to this incident that Shonagon refers in her 
reply to the Empress, who has evidently been running down Nakatada in favour of 

202. Lady Saisho displays her erudition by referring to some nostalgic lines of Po Chu-i's 
from the poem that describes the desolation of the old palace of Mount Li (to the west 
of the Tang capital of Chang An). The poem starts, "On lofty Mount Li stands a palace" 
and the lines in question are: 

How many months, how many years, have passed 

Since the Imperial banners last appeared! 

The walls lie silent under moss 

And the tiles are choked with fern. 

His Majesty has been five years on the Throne. 

Why has he not once paid a visit here? 

It is not far from the city's western gate... 

That is, it does not take long to reach Mount Li from the western gate of the capital, yet 
during the five years of his reign the Emperor has not once visited the Old Palace. The 

western gate of the old Chinese capital is of course identified with the desolate West 
City (note 200) of Heian Kyo. 

203. When they were ill and during their menses ladies-in-waiting returned to their homes 
or to some other private dwelling outside the Imperial compound. This was to avoid 
ritual defilement in the Palace, where Shinto rules of purity were meticulously observed. 

204. Seaweed has been part of the Japanese diet since the earliest times; it is usually eaten 
with rice, fish, etc. 

205. Lit. "a letter from the Outer Palace Guards Left Division". This was the Guards regiment 
in which Norimitsu served. 

206. Sacred Readings: a half-yearly Buddhist ceremony during which a large group of 
priests, gathered in the Palace and took turns in reading the 600 chapters of the Sutra of 
Great Wisdom (Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra). The readings, which took place weekly in 
the Second and Eighth Months, continued for four days, the last being known as the Day 
of Conclusion. The eve of this day was an occasion for Imperial Abstinence. 

207. Since it was by putting a piece of seaweed in his mouth that he had earlier managed to 
keep the secret. But Shonagon's implication ("Continue to hide my whereabouts from 
Tadanobu! ") is completely lost on the blunt-witted Nori- mitsu. 

208. The poem is cryptic and might have confounded a more perceptive reader than 

209. Another brain-twister for the unfortunate Norimitsu. In Shonagon's poem the river 
represents the deep, steadfast relationship that has existed between herself and 
Norimitsu: once it has been broken off, she will no longer be able to recognize him even 
if they should, meet. Because of word-plays the poem can also be understood as 

Smoothly runs the river of Yoshino 

Between the woman and the one she loves. 

Yet, should their bonds be broken off. 

No longer would she know that man who used to be so near. 

210. Heian women plucked their eyebrows and painted a thick new set about one inch 
above. See W.S.P., p. 215. 

211. Another reference to Utsubo Monogatari (note 201). When Minamoto no Suzushi sees 
that the heavenly maiden, whom he has charmed to earth by his music, is about to 
leave him, he vents his regret in a poem: 

Faintly I saw her by the dawn's pale light. 

The heavenly maiden hovering in the air. 

Oh, that I could but make her stay a while! 

The expedition to the guard-house also took place very early in the morning. In her reply 
the Empress wonders why Shonagon should allude to Suzushi's musical talents when 
previously she had taken the side of his rival Nakatada. 

212. Perpetual Sacred Readings, often abbreviated to "Perpetual Readings", were held at 
irregular intervals in the palace. Readings of the Sutra of Great Wisdom, the Lotus Surra, 

and other scriptures would continue day and night; each priest (in a group of twelve) 
read for about two hours at a time. This section probably belongs to the Twelfth Month 
of 998 (see App. 5). The reader should remember that in the Japanese lunar calendar 
the First Month marked the beginning of spring rather than (as in the Julian calendar) 
the height of winter: hence the lady's doubts, later in the section, about how long the 
snow mountain will last. 

213. Hitachi no Suke: Assistant Governor of Hitachi Province. 

214. Mount Otoko, the site of the famous Iwashimizu Shrine south of the capital, was noted 
for its red autumn foliage. The beggar-nun's song naturally has a double meaning: just 
as the colourful leaves have made the mountain famous, so an association with lustful 
women makes a man notorious. 

215. When a courtier or other person of rank received a robe as a reward (this being a 
common form of payment in Heian times), he would naturally put it over his shoulders 
and perform a short ceremonial dance of thanks. To Shonagon and her companions it 
was shocking that a beggar-woman should ape her superiors in this way. 

216. Building snow mountains was a common winter pastime for members of the leisured 
class. Some of the mountains reached considerable dimensions. The Taiki in an entry 
dated I 146 describes a snow mountain that was about fourteen feet square and over 
eighteen feet high. 

217. Shirayama (White Mountain), situated in the northern prefecture of Kaga in the so- 
called Snow Country, was dedicated to the worship of the eleven-faced Kannon. The 
upper part of Shirayama was perpetually covered with snow, and Shonagon naturally 
chooses this particular divinity when composing her prayer about the snow mountain. 

218. Eastern Palace: refers to the Crown Prince's quarters, which were in the eastern part of 
the Emperor's own residence, the eastern direction being associated in Chinese 
geomantic theory with the spring season and thus the idea of growth. The Crown Prince 
himself was usually called by this name; he was also known as Haru no Miya (Spring 
Palace). In 998, the date of the present scene, the Crown Prince was Ichijo's cousin, the 
future Emperor Sanjo (reg. 1011-16). 

Koki Palaee was the Empress's Residential Palace. (Readers of The Tale of Genji will 
recall that the name of Genji's stepmother, the scheming Empress who helped to have 
him exiled, was taken from this building.) At this time it was occupied by Ichijo's consort, 
Fujiwara no Yoshiko. 

Kyogoku Palace was a Provisional Imperial Palace in the north-east corner of the capital; 
its present occupant was Michitaka's brother and political successor, Fujiwara no 

219. In her poem the first beggar-nun (Hitachi no Suke) reveals her unpleasant character by 
referring enviously to her crippled colleague, who has been so generously treated by the 
Empress and her ladies. 

220. In aristocratic circles letters were usually attached to sprays or sprigs the colour of 
whose leaves or flowers matched those of the paper as well as the season and the mood 
of the poem (see W.S.P., p. 199). 

221. The High Priestess of the Kamo Shrines was chosen at the beginning of each" reign. 

Her household was administered by an office under an Intendant. The institution of High 
Priestess of Kamo was started in 818 (several centuries after that of High Priestess of 
Ise) and lasted until 1204. 

222. i.e., the lattice on the side of the central apartment next to the Empress's bedroom. 

223. "Festive wands" refers to the auspicious hare-wands distributed at the New Year. A 
confusion of sense impressions, (e.g. mistaking the snow for scattering cherry blossoms 
or vice versa) was a common convention in classical poetry. 

224. The plum-blossom colour combination was especially popular at the New Year. 

225. Chip-basket: box with curved corners made of strips of wood. 

226. Whenever a new minister was appointed to the Great Council of States, the Council 
officials gave a special entertainment known as the Ministers" Banquet. On the occasion 
of such an appointment a Chamberlain of the Sixth Rank brought the new official a gift 
of sweet chestnuts from the Emperor. Lower officials of the Great Council were offered 
a cup of wine and a special bonus. 

227. Doctor of Literature: one of two officials in the Bureau of Education who taught 
Chinese literature and history and who were also responsible for composing the prayers 
that the Emperor addressed to the gods on special occasions. Although they belonged 
to the Fifth Rank, Shonagon describes them as "low ranking": scholars in Japan had a 
considerably lower status than in China and did not usually enjoy the all-important 
privilege of being admitted to the Senior Courtiers' Chamber. 

228. For the purpose of reading the scriptures, the day and night were divided into six 
periods, each with a special Buddhist designation. Lectors specialized in studying and 
reciting the Lotus Sutra. 

229. A delivery room might seem an incongruous item in this list of "splendid things". The 
delivery of a Heian Empress, how- ever, was attended by a good deal of impressive cere¬ 
monial. Religious services took place for several days in the Imperial birth chamber, and 
the birth itself was witnessed by numerous white-clad courtiers. This was followed by 
ceremonial bathing, after which a sword and a tiger's head were shaken in front of the 
infant and rice scattered about the room—all to keep evil spirits at bay. 

230. The installation of an Empress was another elaborate ceremony. Shonagon was 
probably present when her mistress, Sadako, was installed as Empress in 990. The new 
Empress would be seated in her curtain-dais, next to which were placed the statues of a 
leonine creature and of a "Korean" dog, which were believed to ward off evil influences. 
(These two animals were actually the same, except that the "lion" was yellow and had 
an open mouth, while the dog was white and had a closed mouth; both were originally 
imported from Korea.) Officials from the Table Office would bring in the Imperial 
Cauldron, an ancient object which was always taken along when the Court moved from 

one palace to another. The cauldron represented the god of the hearth, and the 
ceremony of setting it before the Empress symbolized that she had assumed a connubial 
status in which she and the Emperor would share divine protection (not, as some 
commentators have suggested, that she was now assuming responsibility for the 
Emperor's meals). 

231. The little Prince is Atsuyasu. His uncles are Michitaka's two sons; Korechika and Takaie, 
who were twenty-five and twenty-one respectively when the Prince was born. 

Shonagon's optimism about the child's future was misplaced: owing to the fall of the 
Michitaka faction, Atsuyasu never became Emperor. 

232. This was the name of a famous lute that had been kept in the Palace since ancient 
times; literally it means "Nameless". 

233. Rather than spell out the name of the instrument, the Empress hints at it by saying 
that it "does not even have a name" (cf. note 2 32 ). 

234. i.e. Fujiwara no Genshi. Her father was Michitaka, who had died almost exactly one 
year earlier. 

235. Refers to Ryuen, Michitaka's fourth son and the brother of Empress Sadako and the 
Lady of the Shigei Sha. He took orders at an early age, being appointed Provisional 
Junior Assistant High Priest (Gon Daisazu) in 993 when he was only fourteen. His rapid 
rise in the ecclesiastical hierarchy was broken off by a rather early death. 

236. Inakaeji was the name of a well-known flute belonging to the Imperial collection. It is 
homonymous with the words meaning, "No, I will not exchange"; hence the Empress's 

237. Gensho = Above the Mysteries 
Mokuma = Horse Pasture 

Ide = Sluice 

Ikyo = The Bridge of the River Wei 

Mumyo = Nameless 

Kuchime = Decaying Eye 

Shiogama = Salt Kiln 

Futanuki = The Two Openings 

Suiro = Water Dragon 

Kosuiro = Small Water Dragon 

Uda no Hoshi= Father (Master of the Buddhist Law) 

Uda Kugiuchi = Nail Striker 
Hafutatsu =Two Leaves 

238. Giyo Palace housed the Imperial treasures. 

239. Lit. "even [she whose face] was half hidden". Shonagon refers to a line in Po Chu-i's 
"Song of the Lute" (note 182) about a girl whom the poet meets on a boat when he is 
about to leave on a journey: 

She lifts her lute, and I can see but half her face. 

The girl, who has now sunk to the status of professional entertainer, tells the poet that 
she has known better days. Yet compared to Empress Sadako she is, of course, a "mere 

240. Damp weather enhanced the scent of most types of incense. 

241. Although the poem was in the standard thirty-one-syllable form, the Empress had not 
divided it into lines. 

The capital was north-east of Hyuga, and when the Empress speaks of facing the sun 
(the rising sun is implied) she means that the nurse will be looking in the direction of the 

The two parts of the poem correspond, of course, to the two sides of the fan. 

242. Southern Palace: one of the detached palaces (i.e. palaces outside the Imperial Palace 
compound). Situated in the Third Ward at the south of Tosanjo In (see App. 3c), it was 
part of the residence of the Empress's father, Fujiwara no Michitaka, who died there in 

243. Archery contests took place on the eighteenth of the First Month as the final event of 
the New Year, celebrations. They were held in the presence of the Emperor. Teams of 
four men each were chosen from two divisions of the Imperial Guards. Like most events 
of the kind, the contests were followed, by a banquet. 

244. Abstinence of the Fifth Month: the Buddhist church enjoined periods of abstinence 
during the First, Fifth, and Ninth Months. These periods were marked by strict 
observance of the dietary and other purifying rules that applied during certain days of 
each month (note 68), and also by the recital of special prayers. 

245. The standard measure for rooms, halls, etc. was the distance between two adjacent 
pillars in the mansion. This was about 3.3 yards, and a "two-span room" was therefore 
about twenty feet long. 

Fire-proof store-rooms were built in the palaces and patrician houses to keep clothes 
and other valuables that were not in the outside storehouse. 

246. "Magpie" was the name of the bridge that the Weaver had to cross once a year if she 
was to meet her Herdsman lover (note 34). The name was "unpleasant\ not because of 
the sound, but because of its sad legendary association. 

247. According to regulations in the Engi Shiki (tenth-century civil code). Court ladies were 
not usually allowed to enter or leave their carriages at this gate; but during the rainy 
season an exception was made since, if the ladies walked all the way to one of the main 
gates of the Greater Imperial Palace, they were liable to be caught in the rain and to 
have their clothes ruined. 

248. Four was the normal complement of a Heian carriage. 

249. i.e., of the Kamo Festival in the previous month. 

250. Takashina no Akinobu was governor of Harinla Province and later served as Middle 
Controller of the Left. He was Empress Sadako's maternal uncle; hence it was natural 
that he should give hospitality to her ladies. 

251. Kaneko (Hyoshaku, p. 521) emphasizes the unfamiliarity of the Court ladies with rustic 
matters like rice plants and threshing machines. "What I took to be rice plants" ("what I 
suppose were rice plants"), however, seems almost a deliberate affectation. 

252. "Only rough, country fare": the standard type of self- deprecatory remark that a polite 
Japanese host makes today just as he would have done a thousand years ago. 

253. Shonagon objects to her host's excessive informality. It was most unconventional for 
ladies of quality to be served with food in public on a row of tables; usually each of them 
was given her meal on an individual tray or dish and she would eat in private. 

254. Fujiwara no Kiminobu was the first cousin of the Empress and the adopted son of his 
own brother, Tadanobu. He received several good appointments at Court, including 
those of Imperial Adviser and Provisional Middle Counsellor. 

255. Tsuchi Gate: one of the gates at the east of the Greater Imperial Palace. 

256. Carriages were unyoked at the main Palace gates and then pulled by attendants to the 
veranda of the building where the passengers alighted. 

257. For the sake of scansion I have used the conventional translation of hototogisu (note 

258. A facetious reference to the doctrine of karma, according to which all events in this 
life, even the most trivial, are rigidly predetermined by what has happened in previous 

259. cf. note 192. People would frequently compose one part of a poem (either the opening 
5-7-slines or the concluding 7-7 lines) and challenge someone else to write the other 
part on the spur of the moment. This called for fluency and virtuosity of a type that 
Shonagon delighted in displaying. The Empress's lines imply that her ladies were more 
interested in the food they were served at Akinobu's house than in the poetic song of 
the hototogisu. 

260. Shonagon's father, Motosuke, and her great-grandfather, Fukayabu, were both 
distinguished poets; many other members of the Kiyowara family were also known for 
their literary talents. 

261. Night of the Monkey: once in every sixty days, when the Sign of the Elder Brother of 
Metal coincided with the Sign of the Monkey (see App. 1), people were advised to spend 
the whole night awake in order to protect themselves from the three "corpse worms", 
who might otherwise penetrate the sleeper's body and cause him great harm. This 
belief, which was related to Chinese Taoist superstition, had gained wide acceptance in 
Heian Japan. Members of the aristocracy spent the inauspicious Koshin night writing 
poetry and playing games to keep themselves awake. 

262. Reference to a passage in the Lotus Sutra: "There is but a single vehicle of the Law; 
there are not two, nor are there three." Accordingly the Lotus was known as the "Law of 
the Single Vehicle". 

263. A rigid rank system applied to the Heian after-life as well as to the present world. 

There were nine ranks of rebirth in Amida's Western Paradise; the lotus seat obtained 
after rebirth depended on the weight of sin or merit accumulated in one's former 

existences. As expounded in the "Nine Ranks of Rebirth" by the priest, Ryogen (912-85), 
these were the Lower, Middle, and Upper Births, each being divided into the Lower, 
Middle, and Upper Ranks. 

Shonagon makes it clear that she would accept a Lower Birth of Lower Rank. Her 
Buddhist imagery is of course inspired by the joke about the "Single Vehicle of the Law" 
(note 262). She implies that, when it comes to being loved by the Empress, even the 
lowest rank in her affections would suffice; when less distinguished people are involved, 
she insists on being first. 

264. Fujiwara no Takaie, the Empress's brother, served as Middle Counsellor from 995 to 
996. The Okagami describes him as an "intractable fellow". 

265. The Japanese use the same word, hone, for the frame of a fan and the bone or 
cartilage of an animal. (The English word "frame" contains some of the same ambiguity.) 
Since Takaie claims that his fan has a hone which has never been seen, Shonagon 
comments that it must be the hone of a jelly-fish; for, while everyone knows fan-frames, 
no one has ever set eyes on the frame of a jelly-fish. Pickled jelly-fish was a popular dish 
among the Heian aristocracy. 

266. i.e. section 63. "Embarrassing" because it is a case of Shonagon's blowing her own 
trumpet. But The Pillow Book is full of episodes in which the author shows off her wit 
and erudition, and it is not clear why she should have felt diffident on this particular 

267. Fujiwara no Nobutsune, a cousin of Murasaki Shikibu's, became Chamberlain in 995 
and was appointed Secretary in the Ministry of Ceremonial in 997; later he became 
Governor of Echigo. 

268. It appears that when Nobutsune delivered an Imperial message he usually knelt on the 
floor next to the cushion as a mark of respect to the Empress, rather than seating him¬ 
self comfortably on it. 

269. Senzoku = (i) cushion, (ii) to clean or wipe one's feet. In my translation I have made a 
lame attempt to suggest the nature of Shonagon's joke. The play on words is far more 
effective in Japanese; also it should be remembered that the Heian tolerance for puns 
was considerably greater than ours. A closer translation would be: "Do you suppose this 
is for the sake of wiping your feet [serving as a cushion]?" 

270. Great Empress: Fujiwara no Yasuko, the consort of Emperor Murakami. She enjoyed 
great influence as Acting Empress Dowager under Emperor Reizei and Acting Great 
Empress Dowager under Emperor Enyu. The incident that Shonagon recounts here is at 
least thirty years old. 

Enutagi was the name of one of Empress Yasuko's low- ranking women. According to 
Hyoshaku, p. 535, it had the unfortunate double sense of" dog's vomit"; but other texts 
give Enudaki, which means "holding a dog in one's arms". 

Tokikara, an obscure member of the Fujiwara family, was appointed Governor of Mino 
in 968 and died en poste. His name, which could be taken to mean" depending on the 

weather", does not appear in any of the Fujiwara genealogies; some of the texts give it 
as Tokikashi. 

271. Nobutsune suggests that, just as it was he who put the idea of the senzoku pun (note 
269) into Shonagon's head, so Tokikara gave Enutagi her opportunity to shine: in both 
cases the inspiration came from the man. This is hardly a suggestion that would endear 
him to Shonagon and it may well have promoted her subsequent attack. 

272. Office of Palace Works: an independent government office (i.e. not attached to any of 
the eight Ministries). Its work- shop was in the Imperial Palace compound, and it was 
responsible for supplying the Palace with furniture, objects of art, etc. Nobutsune 
became Director of this office in 996. 

273. i.e. when she became his consort. 

274. A good example of the formality of Court life. See W.S.P., pp. 178-80. 

275. i.e. the Chancellor, Fujiwara no Michitaka, the father of the - Empress and of the Shigei 

276. Shakuzen Temple: founded by Michitaka in 990; it was situated in Hoko Palace, his 
father's old residence in the Second Ward (App. 3c). 

277. Members of the aristocracy normally observed a rigid correlation between the seasons 
and the colour of their clothes. Red plum colour was worn from the Eleventh Month 
until the beginning of the Second Month. Now the time had come to change to light 
green or to some similar vernal colour, but the Empress had decided to defy convention. 

278. "Creep out" might seem an odd form of locomotion for an Empress; but it becomes 
clear when we remember the traditional Japanese seating position, which was a sort of 
squat. If one was seated and wished to move to a place near by, one would normally go 
on one's knees, rather than stand up and kneel down again in the new place. 

279. She was now twenty years old. 

280. Shigei Sha (palace) was connected to Toka Palace by covered galleries which passed 
through Senyo and Jagan Palaces. 

281. Demons had straw coats that made them invisible. 

282. Michitaka is alluding to the Kokin Shu poem: 

Ah, what fond memories she summons forth- 
She whom I dimly glimpsed 
Through the clearing in the mist 
Of mountain cherry blooms! 

283. Michitaka is facetiously referring to himself and his wife. As Kaneko points out 
(Hyoshaku, p. 559), the fact that the Empress and her sister were served before their 
father and mother shows that the State hierarchy (in which members of the Imperial 
family and their official consorts were ranked above all other people) took precedence 
over the Confucian hierarchy (where parents came before children). 

284. i.e. Korechika and his brother Takaie. 

285. Michitaka was head of the main branch of the great Fuji- wara clan, and it was only 
natural that his children should have reached the position they had. His wife, however. 

came from a relatively- undistinguished family of Confucian scholars and for her to be 
the mother of such impressive . offspring must be the result of an unusually auspicious 
karma (note 25,8). 

286. The Empress did not give birth to Prince Atsuyasu until the end of 999. Since the 
Fujiwaras' position at Court depended to a large extent on whether their daughter bore 
boy children to the reigning Emperor, Michitaka had good reason to wish that 
Matsugimi were Sadako's son rather than Korechika's. Emperor Ichijo was now fifteen, 
which was a normal age to begin siring children. 

287. Michitaka, like his brother Michinaga, was known as a heavy drinker but also had the 
reputation of being able to recover at a moment's notice. 

288. The Emperor has been enjoying a long siesta with Empress Sadako; now he gets ready 
to return to his own palace, Seiryo Den. 

289. This was the zenith of Fujiwara no Michitaka's career, and the Emperor's escort 
appears to have consisted entirely of Michitaka and his sons. With his death shortly 
afterwards, the preponderant position that he and his sons had enjoyed at Court was 
taken over by Michinaga and his own numerous progeny. 

290. A bridge that had been put up temporarily to span a gap in one of the corridors. 

291. Fujiwara no Kinto, the noted poet, literary critic, calligrapher, and musician, had been 
appointed Imperial Adviser in 992. 

292. The idea that snowflakes can be mistaken for scattering blossoms is one of the 
hoariest conceits in the Japanese poetic vocabulary. We must remember, however, that 
the use of conventional images was far from being regarded as a weakness among 
Fleian poetasters. 

293. Minamoto noToshikata was appointed Imperial Adviser in 995; in 1018, helped by his 
family connexion with Michinaga, he reached the apex of his career as Major 
Counsellor. Toshikata was a distinguished poet (he became one of the "Four 
Counsellors" known for their poetic talents); and Shonagon has good reason to value his 

294. The reference to a one-measure jar is proverbial; but in general Masahiro's remark is 
as meaningless in Fleian Japanese as in the English translation. 

295. The popping of peas in a stove was proverbially compared to people who are in a great 
hurry; but Masahiro's use of the expression is as peculiar as everything else about his 

296. "Five parts" is a Buddhist term (Sanskrit pcmccmga) referring to the knees, elbows, and 
head; when all are placed on the floor, it implies the utmost respect. It can also refer to 
the head, hands, and feet, or to the sinews, veins, flesh, bones, and hair. Some elegant 
courtier has no doubt used this expression to his mistress, instead of the more common¬ 
place "your whole body". 

297. Little Screen: the screen in Seiryo Palace that divided the Imperial Dining Room from 
the Imperial Washing Room. It had a cat painted on one side, birds and bamboo on the 

298. See App. 3a. 

299. Water-oats were used for making rush mats. 

300. Poem chanted as an accompaniment to a kagura dance: 

Ah, what sweet repose 
On this my sheaf of water-oats 
Culled from the waters of Takase Pool! 

To such a pillow I'll entrust my sleep 
And care not if I drift away. 

301. In preparation for the Iris Festival two days later. The iris decorations were arranged 
on the fourth. 

302. A typical example of Shonagon's shorthand style. She says that the young priests were 
wearing only their sashes. This would be a bizarre costume to find in a Buddhist 
monastery; what she actually means is that the priests were informally dressed in their 
under-robes and sashes without their full sacerdotal vestments. High clogs were 
presumably unfamiliar to a city-dweller; hence "things called". 

303. Sacred Storehouse, a Sanskrit metaphysical treatise translated into Chinese. For ease 
of recitation it was divided into verses of four words each; the full text comprised 6oo 
such verses. 

304. These were no doubt country folk who wore their clothes inside out to prevent them 
from being soiled on the way to the temple. 

305. Dog barrier: low, latticed screens separating the inner part of the temple from the 
outer. They were derived from the barriers placed at the foot of the steps leading up to 
private mansions in order to keep out stray dogs (which were numerous in the capital). 

306. Platform of worship: special dais placed in front of a Buddhist statue or image for the 
use of the priest reading the sutras. 

The petitions were written requests that the priests addressed to the Buddha on behalf 
of their patrons; they were based on the "original vows" to help believers (see note 

307. "Platform", "altar", had the secondary meaning of "alms", "offering". "One thousand 
platforms" signified a generous offering. Members of the aristocracy frequently 
dispatched messengers to Hase and other temples carrying letters and offerings. The 
letters contained petitions that the priests were to convey in their prayers after reciting 
the appropriate sutras; the offerings consisted of robes, lengths of silk, and other 

308. Normally the ends of the shoulder-sash were knotted in front of the skirt. 

309. It appears from the context that the man has been weeping; hence Shonagon's 

310. Conch-shells were used in temples to announce the time. 

311. Instruction and guidance: the priests direct their prayers at the evil spirits who cause 
difficult childbirth and illness. They "instruct" the spirits by preaching the Buddhist Law; 
they "guide" them from evil to good. 

312. Proud, charming voice: when it came to one's tone in addressing servants there was 
obviously no contradiction between the two adjectives. 

313. Matins lasted from 1 to 4 a.m. The sutra in question is the Avalokitesvara, dedicated to 
the eleven-faced Kannon. 

314. This was the officer who, seated in a special stand, presided over the archery and 
wrestling contests held in a garden of the Imperial Palace; he was dressed in full uniform 
and carried arms- all extremely hot on a summer day. 

315. The sex of the second thief is not specified. 

As Kaneko observes, the situation was amusing for the thief but shameful for the person 
whom he catches in the act of pilfering. 

Petty theft was a common occurrence in the type of dormitory atmosphere inhabited by 
Shonagon and her colleagues. 

316. Certain priests were always on duty at night in the Imperial Palace and elsewhere, so 
that they could be summoned immediately in case of illness or other emergencies. In 
Empress Sadako's palace the room occupied by the priests on night duty was directly 
next to that of Shonagon and the other ladies--in-waiting. Owing to the flimsy nature of 
Japanese architecture, these priests were all liable to overhear the "shameful things" 
spoken by the young ladies, but a light sleeper was particularly defenceless since he 
would almost certainly ~e awakened by the sound of their gossip. 

317. Sumo (Sumai) wrestling tournaments normally took place in the Imperial Palace every 
year at the end of the Seventh Month, skilled fighters being specially recruited from the 
provinces. The traditional beginning of these tournaments is recorded in the chronicles 
in the Seventh Month of the seventh year of Emperor Suinin's reign (probably c. A.D. 
260): "Tagima Kehaya and Nomi-no-Sukune, the latter being from Izumo-no-kuni, were 
summoned to fight each other to see who was the stronger. [...Nomi-no-Sukune won by 
killing his opponent with terrific kicks.]" (E.J.H., A. 118). 

318. i.e. from his visit to Iwashimizu no Hachiman Shrine at Yawata near Yodo River, some 
ten miles south of the capital. This was one of the three main shrines dedicated to 
Hachiman, the God of War. Kaneko points out (Hyoshaku, pp. 630-31) that this was the 
first Imperial procession that Ichijo (now aged fifteen) had taken without his mother, 
the Empress Dowager; therefore it was an especially moving occasion for everyone 

Gallery: an elaborate sort of grandstand, complete with screens, curtains, etc., built for 
viewing Imperial proces- sions and the like. Here the spectacle is the return of the 
Imperial procession to the capital. 

319. Second Avenue: one of the nine great avenues (jo) that ran at equal distances across 
the capital from east to west (App. 3c). The Second A venue, being directly south of the 
Imperial Palace, was the largest and most impressive of these nine streets; it was almost 
sixty yards wide. 

Because of the Emperor's return the streets through which the procession passed (i.e. 
Suzaku Oji and Nijo Oji) had been specially swept and kept clear of all other traffic. 

320. Michitaka refers to himself (cf. note 283). 

321. For the special significance of shoes see note 162. 

322. i.e. better than being a Chancellor. 

323. Michinaga's meteoric rise to undisputed political control started in 995-6 with the 
death of Michitaka and the disgrace of Korechika. His great days of glory, however, did 
not come till after Sadako's death in 1000. This passage was obviously written at least 
six years after the event it describes (see App. 5). 

Shonagon had the reputation of being partial to Michinaga (cf. p. 163); this proved very 
damaging to her at Empress Sadako's Court, since Michinaga was soon to emerge as his 
niece's chief political enemy. 

324. i.e. for the Festival of Young Herbs in the First Month (note 3). 

325. Miminagusa, which literally means "herb without ears", corresponding to our 
myosotis; both words contain the element "ear" (mimi and otos). The miminagusa is not 
usually included among the seven herbs. 

326. A tissue of double meanings, which the children would certainly not have understood. 
Shonagon identifies the children who did not answer when she first spoke to them with 
the myosotis which "have no ears". Yet surely, she says in her last two lines, since there 
are so many plants I children, there must be some that hear I that are chrysanthemums. 
Kaneko observes (Hyoshaku, p. 640) that pinching was evidently one of the ways in 
which children were punished; in the present instance, of course, it is used simply as a 
figure of speech and to provide an extra pun. 

327. Cold, square rice-cakes filled with special vegetables, goose eggs, duck, and other 
delicacies were presented to the Court Nobles and top-ranking officials on the day after 
Reken and Kojo. Shonagon again uses the phrase "things known as", suggesting her 
vagueness a bout this "purely male" activity; and later she wishes there were someone 
there to tell her what she should do when she has. received the cakes. 

328. Submission: official document submitted by a Bureau or provincial office to some 
higher authority in the capital. 

329. Nari-yuki is a reversal of the two characters in the given name of Shonagon's friend, 
Fujiwara no Yukinari, and the note is from him. Mimana is the name of an ancient clan 
descended from one of the royal families of Mimana in southern Korea. By the time of 
The Pillow Book the Mimana family had come down in the world, its members 
occupying lowly posts in the Sixth Rank or under. Since submissions normally came from 
humble officials of this sort, Yukinari playfully assumes the name of such a family. 

330. Reference to the legend about Hitokotonushi no Kami, one of the gods of Mount 
Kazuraki, who, when asked why he was taking so long to build the bridge between his 
mountain and Mount Kimbu, replied that he was too ugly to show himself during the 
day and therefore, could work only at night. Hence the bridge was never finished, and as 
a punishment for his negligence he was bound by a spell in a deep valley. . Having 
assumed a menial role in his letter, Yukinari now compares himself to the unfortunate 
god who was treated like a servant. 

331. Apart from being a distinguished poet Yukinari was one of the great calligraphers of his 
day. The Empress takes his letter, no. doubt intending to keep it as an example of skilled 

332. This could be either Ben no Naishi or Ben no Omoto, both ladies-in-waiting to the 
Empress. Sei Shonagon refers to herself as Shonagon. 

333. Pun on heidan ("cold square cakes") and reitan ("cold", "cool", "indifferent"). 

334. Tachibana no Norimitsu was known for his dislike of poetry (see note 193); Nariyasu is 
unidentified, but he too must have belonged to the small band of poetry-haters. In the 
present scene they are delighted to hear that Shona- gon has for once turned doWn an 
opportunity to ~nswer in verse. 

335. In Shonagon's time this building was greatly dilapidated and parts of the wall had 
come to pieces. For one reason or another, either because this was the part that had 
crumbled first, or because of yinyang directional theories, it had become traditional to 
take wood, from the framework of the south-east comer of the mud wall in order to. 
make batons for newly appointed Chamberlains of the Sixth "Rank. 

336. Hosonaga (long robe worn by women and children): lit. "thin and long". 

Kazami (woman's loose coat, note 24): lit. "sweat garment". Kazami originally referred 
to an undergarment that was designed to absorb sweat, but later it was applied to the 
coats worn by Palace girls. 

Shiranaga (robe with a long train worn by boys): lit. "long train". 

Karaginu (short jacket worn by women): lit. "Chinese robe". 

Ue no kinu (men's over-robe): lit. "robe above". 

Ue no hakama (over-trousers, trouser-skirt worn by both men and women together 
with the over-robes as part of their formal Court costume): lit. "trouser-skirt above". 
Shitagasane (man's formal under-robe, note 69): lit. "under-suit". 

Oguchi (wide, red trouser-skirt worn by men): lit. "big mouth". 

Hakama (trouser-skirt or divided skirt worn by men and women): lit. "wear train" (haki- 

Sashinuki (loose, laced, silk trousers worn by men): lit. "insertions". 

337. None of these derivations ( kazamii, kakama, etc.) is particularly obscure; but the study 
of etymology was not very advanced in Shonagon's time. 

338. For a description of Shonagon's relations with Tadanobu earlier in the year see section 

339. There is no distinction in Japanese between defining and non-defining relative clauses. 
It is not clear, therefore, whether Shonagon's remark about insensitivity to the pathos 
of things applies to young people in general or whether it is intended to define these 
particular young people. 

340. From a Chinese poem written by Michizane's grandson, Sugawara no Fumitoki, for 
Fujiwara no Koretada as a prayer in memory of Koretada's father and mother. The 
quotation is especially appropriate since the present service is in memory of the 

Empress's father; note also that the season (autumn) is correct. The poem goes as 

This golden valley, this earth. 

Whose perfumed flowers make one drunk! 

It's spring, and once again the air is heavy with their scent; 

Yet he, their master, is no longer here. 

He who climbed the southern tower 
To gaze with joy upon the moon. 

Where is he now 

When moon and autumn reappear at the appointed time? 

Those deeply loved should deeply bear [these things] in mind. 

And those who are most honoured [by the world] should also be most fearful. As 
usual in quotations from Chinese, Tadanobu says the words in Japanese. 

341. Because Shonagon was known to be especially fond of Tadanobu. 

342. The Japanese norokeru, meaning i.e. "to speak fondly or proudly of one's wife, 
husband, lover, etc.", has no real equivalent in English. It is always used in a derogatory 
sense, and in the present passage Shonagon, though she does not use the word itself, 
expresses her doubts about people who indulge in this activity. An exaggerated effort to 
avoid such partiality can make people seem disloyal, and this is the tenor of Tadanobu's 
final remark. Kaneko suggests (Hyoshaku, pp. 657-8) that Shonagon's argument is a 
skilful pretext to avoid having an affair with Tadanobu, and he describes his last remark 
as "the disappointed voice of a man whose proposal has been rejected". There is 
considerable evidence, however, that Tadano bu had. already been Shonagon's lover; 
perhaps she is now simply trying to avoid resuming a relationship that no longer suits 

343. i.e. before 2 a.m. (App 1). 

344. A conventional euphuism; cf. W.S.P., pp. 240-41. 

345. "Back to front", "reverse", "contrary"; by referring to the rooster's crow, the letter 
gives the impression, that he had spent the night with Shonagon as a lover. 

346. Tien Wen, the Lord of Meng-chang, was the grandson of the King of Chi. In 289 B.C. he 
was invited to the state of Chin, where he became a minister. The King of Chein grew 
suspicious of him and had him arrested, but Tien Wen was able to escape one night and 
to reach the frontier barrier of Han-ku. This barrier remained closed until dawn; a posse 
had set out in hot pursuit, and the prince would certainly have been captured had not 
one or his party, who was skilled at making bird calls, conceived the astute idea of 
imitating the crow of a rooster. This deluded the barrier keeper into believing that it was 
dawn, where- upon he opened the gate, permitting the prince and his party to escape 
and return to Ch ci. Shonagon playfully suggests that Yukinari's cock-crow is as untrue as 
the rest of his letter in which he falsely suggests (note 345) that they have shared a 
night of love. 

347. Determined to show that he is familiar with Shonagon's historical allusion, Yukinari 
adds a detail that is in fact incorrect. The Shih chi mentions that the Lord of Meng-chang 
had 3000 followers in his fief at home; it certainly does not suggest that this was the 
number of men who accompanied him on his escape. We can assume that Shonagon 
failed to notice the error; for she would hardly have missed such an opportunity to 
discomfit Yukinari. 

348. Far from being hard to cross as Shonagon had suggested in her poem, the barrier of 
the "slope of meetings" is always wide open to the traveller. Yukinari alludes to 
Shonagon's reputation of having many lovers. It is hardly a flattering innuendo, but she 
takes it in good part. This poem of Shonagon's ("There may be some who are 
deceived...") did a great deal towards confirming her literary reputation at Court; it is 
included in the famous Hyakunin Isshu anthology. 

Her postscript implies that the gate-keeper at Osaka is far more prudent than the one 
who let Prince Meng-chang cross the barrier; it suggests, in other words, that she will 
not let down her defences so easily. 

349. Shonagon is thinking of the bamboo-loving Wang Hui-chih (d. A.D. 388), who referred 
to bamboo as "this gentleman". The Chin shu (chap. 80) has the following passage: "Hui- 
chih merely whistled and hummed. Pointing to the bamboo, he said, "How could I be 
without this gentleman for a single day?," "This gentleman" as used by Shonagon 
therefore means "bamboo". She probably derived this particular piece of erudition from 
the preface to a Chinese poem by Fujiwara no Atsushige (included in Wakan Roei Shu): 
"Wang Tzu-yu planted bamboo and called it "this gentleman". The follower of the heir- 
apparent of Tang, Po Lo-tien [Po Chu-i], loved it and considered it "my friend"." 

350. The only identifiable member of this party is the "new Middle Captain". This must be 
either Minamoto no Yorisada, who was appointed to the rank in 998, or Fujiwara no 
Sanenari, who received the appointment in the same year. The "Middle Captain" may 
be Minamoto no Tsunefusa. In the Sangenbon texts we find (instead of "the Middle 
Captain, the new Middle Captain"): "the Mina- moto Middle Captain, [son of] Prince 
[Tamehira], the Minister of Ceremonial". This can only be Minamoto no Yorisada. 

351. Since Heian Japanese, like the modern language, usually makes no distinction between 
singular and plural, kono kimi can mean both "this gentleman" (i.e. bamboo) and "these 
gentlemen" (i.e. the men who came to the Empress's residence). Though Shonagon 
knew the first meaning perfectly well, and would have been horrified if anyone had 
doubted it, she playfully pretends to Yukinari, and later to the Empress, that she was 
using the phrase in its second, more conventional, sense. 

352. From the prose preface by Atsushige (note 349). Because of their close link with poetry 
it was customary to refer to the prefaces themselves as poems. 

353. Emperor Enyu, who died in 991, was Empress Sadako's father-in-law. This scene takes 
place when Emperor Ichijo is only twelve years old (App. 5). 

354. The poem is by the illustrious cleric Henjo and commemorates the first anniversary of 
the death of Emperor Nimmyo in Bso: 

All, once more, in flowery clothes are decked. 

Oh, that these mossy sleeves of mine might dry! 

The poet contrasts the bright clothes of the courtiers, who have now discarded their 
mourning, with his own dark habits. "Moss clothes" is a standard epithet for priestly 
robes. There is the usual sleeves-wet-with-tears imagery. 

355. Tozammi was Morosuke's daughter, Fujiwara no Shigeko, who served as Imperial 
Nurse to Emperor Ichijo. She yvas married to Fujiwara no Michikane and, after his death 
in 995, to Taira no Korenaka. Imperial Nurses were chosen from among Court ladies of 
the highest birth and rank; hence Tozammi's familiar behaviour with the Empress later 
in this section. 

356. Account of scrolls: when someone had arranged for incantations, sacred texts, etc. to 
be read at a temple, he would receive an "account of scrolls", a long strip of paper 
attached to a white stick, stating the number of scrolls that had been recited at his 
request, e.g. "Sutra of Great Wisdom, 6oo scrolls". Flere Tozammi has arranged for 
readings to be carried out on behalf of the Emperor, and she assumes that the missive 
which arrived on the previous evening is a document of this kind. She washes her hands 
and kneels down out of respect for what she believes to be a sacred object; hence her 
annoyance when she finds out that it is a poem. 

357. Shiishiba was a type of oak used to produce a dark dye for mourning dress. (Dark 
brown was associated with Buddhist priests, death, etc., and the poem is written on 
dark- brown paper.) Shii also means Fourth Rank and may allude to the fact that 
Tozammi, to whom the poem is written, has recently been promoted from Fourth to 
Third Rank. 

358. Archbishop of Niwa: Niwa (usually Ninna) Ji was a Shingon temple a few miles west of 
the capital (App. 3b). The Archbishop was Kancho, a son of Prince Atsumi. Note that 
Flenjo, the author of the "flowery clothes" poem (note 354), was also an archbishop. 
Flenjo's poem has obviously influenced this one. 

359. Small wooden cupboard with twin leaves, originally used for storing Sutra scrolls and 
Buddhist images, but later also used for books and personal effects. 

360. The child who brought the poem looked like a basket worm, and the Emperor is 
alluding to the legend about the insect's demon-father (section 30). It now becomes 
evident that the first letter originated in his Palace but was made to look as if it came 
from a priest. Lady Kohyoe was known as something of a wag; she is clearly the prime 
mover in the practical joke that has been played on Tozammi with the knowledge of the 
Emperor and the Empress. 

361. Putting starch in laundered clothes was so plebeian an occupation that Shonagon 
hesitates even to hint at its existence. She points out, however, that her notes were not 
intended for other people to see and that she would therefore be justified in including 
so inauspicious an item as parting-fire tongs (below), which were associated with death. 
Tongs used for the parting fires: the Festival of the Dead (Urabon), which corresponded 
in some ways to All Souls" Day in the West, was celebrated from the thirteenth to the 

sixteenth of the Seventh Month (App. 1). Sticks of peeled hemp were lit on the first day 
of the festival so that the souls of the dead might find their way to earth; on the last 
day, parting fires were again lit, this time to speed the ghostly visitors on their way back. 
On the fifteenth a special Buddhist service was held in intercession for the dead who 
were suffering in hell, especially for those who were under- going the ordeal of 
Headlong Falling. 

The wooden tongs used for the parting fires clearly deserved to be included among 
Things Without Merit. The tongs used for the welcoming fires could be used again at the 
end of the festival, but afterwards they had to be thrown away because of their 
inauspicious connotations. 

362. Shonagon is clearly defending herself from some criticism that she has received or 
expects to receive (e.g. "Why do you write about such vulgar subjects as starching 
laundered clothes? "). Her answer is that she originally had no intention of letting 
anyone read her notes. 

363. Housekeeping Office: Government office under the Minis- try of the Treasury (App. 2) 
in charge of furnishings used in the Palace buildings and gardens. 

364. Indeed it is. Since the present festival takes place in the spring, and since there was no 
Sacred Dance of the Return (note 370), it must be the one held at Iwashimizu (not 
Kamo) Shrine. At the Iwashimizu festival the Imperial envoys faced south towards 
Iwashimizu; at the Kamo festival (in the Eleventh Month) they faced north towards 
Kamo. For the. importance of directions see note 21; for the Special Festivals and the 
rehearsal, note 176. 

365. It was usual after large Court banquets to let commoners come and help themselves to 
the left-overs. The custom is typical of the many informal aspects of Palace life. 

366. Fire-huts: small, roofless huts built in the Palace gardens to house the bonfires that 
provided illumination, especially during nocturnal festivals and ceremonies. 

367. The musicians ranked so low in the social hierarchy that they were not normally 
allowed to move about in the Emperor's presence. 

368. Udo Beach: folk-song from the eastern provinces. Its racy character is typical, of 
popular songs of the time (cf. p. 100): 

At Udo Beach 

In Suruga, 

Ay, at Udo Beach! 

The wave that beats against the shore 

Is mistress of the seven herbs. 

Oh, how good! 

Oh, how good! 

The mistress of the seven herbs— 

Oh, how good! 

But what does she do when she meets her herbs? 

Sleep with them? Oh does she now! 

The mistress of the seven herbs— 

Oh, how good! 

For "seven herbs" see note 3; here they may well have a phallic connotation. 

369. Another folk-song from the east: 

Be mindful of the plovers 

That come to play upon the beach! 

Ay, be mindful of the plovers. 

Do not cast your net 

Over the branches of the little pines. 

For that would be a foolish act. 

370. Sacred Dance of the Return: a dance performed by the dancers after their return to the 
Palace. This encore took place when the festival was held at the Kamo shrines, but not 
when the dancers came from the more distant shrine in Iwashimizu. 

371. The director of the dancers and musicians was usually a Guards officer of the Sixth 
Rank. The singers and dancers included noblemen of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Ranks; 
in a very rank-conscious society it was of course a particular satisfaction to be obeyed by 
people who were usually giving the orders. 

372. Shonagon is probably referring to a poem by Fujiwara no Tadafusa: 

Ah, upon this festive day 

When the eight young maidens dance at Kasuga 
Even the Gods must be overwhelmed with joy. 

373. This became a precedent and Sacred Dances of the Return were held after the 
Iwashimizu Festival until the end of the Kamakura period. The reason the ladies did not 
expect the Emperor to keep to his decision was that the extra performance involved a 
break with traditional usage and such breaks were not lightly made in the Fleian period. 

374. "They lifted their skirts over their heads": in order to avoid being recognized. The 
ladies had several under- skirts, petticoats, etc., beneath their divided skirts and were in 
no danger of revealing their bodies. 

375. For the political background and for Shonagon's reputation of being partial to the 
"enemy" faction see note 323. "Stir and movement" refers specifically to the Korechika- 
Takaie disgrace and to Sadako's becoming a nun. 

376. Owing to Bedchamber intrigues that Michinaga fostered after his brother's death, 
Sadako was obliged to leave the Imperial Palace. In 996 (Fourth Month) she. moved into 
the Smaller Palace of the Second Ward (Ko Nijo In), which had been built as her private 
residence in 992. 

377. i.e. to Michinaga, the leader of the "Opposition". 

378. From the poem quoted in note 173. The mountain rose points to the same poem, 
because its yellow colour is designated by a word that is homonymous with "does not 

379. i.e. with tears. The conceit is based on the following poem: 

Before we even learn 

How sad, how fleeting is this world of ours. 

We know already of the world of tears. 

[More lit., "The thing that one knows first of all is tears."] 

380. Riddles: the game was played by two teams, left and right, who tried to solve each 
other's riddles and conundrums. Preparations for matches (awase) of this kind usually 
continued for several weeks (W.S.P., pp. 162-3). During the competition two 
participants, one from each "team, would exchange riddles; then another pair would 
make an ex- change, and so forth. Victory went to the team whose members had solved 
more riddles and received the greater number of winning tokens (note 381) from the 

The answer to the present very simple riddle is "crescent moon", because hari means 
"drawing", "stretching", yumi "bow", and yumi-harizuki "crescent moon" (lit. "bow- 
draw-moon"). No self-respecting courtier could fail to know the answer, since the same 
riddle had been asked by Emperor Daigo (reg. 897-930) and recorded in Utsubo 
Monogatari. It is precisely because the answer is so obvious that the player fails to 
answer and loses the first point for his team. 

381. Lit. "put out a token (counter)". Tokens were given to each team as it scored a point in 
a competition. Sometimes valuable gold and silver ornaments were used instead of 
simple counters. 

382. His team-mates assume that he did in fact know the answer but refused to give it 
because it was too obvious. 

383. Because he is bending over the board, the upper part of his costume reaches up and 
covers his face. 

384. i.e. before they are properly fledged. 

385. The present Japanese custom of a daily bath did not become current, even in 
aristocratic circles, until a much later period. Thus in his advice to his descendants 
Fujiwara no Morosuke writes: "Next choose a[n auspicious] day for your bath; bathe 
once every five days." 

386. Drawing faces on melons was a common pastime, especially for women and children. 

387. Women and children of the leisured class often kept baby sparrows and other little 
birds as pets. The squeak of a mouse was a chu-chu sound used to attract pet birds. 

388. i.e. cut at shoulder length. So great was the aesthetic value attached to a woman's hair 
that nuns were not expected to take the tonsure, but simply cut their hair at about the 
level of their shoulders. 

389. i.e. about 10 a.m. (App. I). 

390. i.e. about 2 p.m. (App. I). 

391. Dining Hall of the High Court Nobles: this was part of the Government Offices of the 
Great Council of State. It included kitchens and a dining hall used by the High Court 

392. One of the functions of the Bureau of Divination in the Ministry of-Central Affairs was 
to keep time by means of clepsydrae. This important duty was entrusted to the Time 
Office, which was staffed by two Doctors of the Clepsydra assisted by twenty Time 
Watchers. At the last quarter of each watch (i.e. every two hours, App. I) the Time 
Watchers would go to the courtyard outside Seiryo Palace and inscribe the time on a 
board, which an officer of the Guards then attached to a post (see W.S.P., pp. 144-5; at 
each new watch a fixed number of strokes was sounded on a gong in the bell-tower of 
the Bureau of Divination, which was directly to the north of the Government Offices of 
the Great Council of State; this could be heard throughout the Palace enclosure, but 
obviously it was louder in a place like the Dining Hall of the High Court Nobles, where 
Shonagon was now staying. During the course of each of the night watches an officer 
would strum his bowstring to keep away evil spirits; then, after naming himself, he 
would announce the time in a stentorian voice. 

393. Shonagon is thinking of the following poem: 

There in the sky. 

Where the paths of summer and autumn cross, 

A cooling wind will blow from many sides. 

We are still at the beginning of the Seventh Month, which corresponds to early autumn 
in the Western calendar (App. I). "From the side" suggests that the autumn winds are 
only just beginning. 

394. i.e. the Weaver and the Herdsman (note 34). The Tanabata Festival was celebrated on 
the Seventh of the Seventh Month. 

395. Lit. "the Fourth Month of men". From Po Chu-i's poem: 

The Fourth Month in this world of men 

Is when all flowers have lost their scent. 

But the peach trees by the mountain temple 

Have just put out their clouds of bloom. 

In the traditional Far Eastern calendar the last day of the Third Month marked the end 
of spring (App. I). This of course called for special recitations of poetry. Tadanobu's 
quotation is especially appropriate because it also alludes to Michitaka's death ("when 
all the flowers have lost their scent"), which occurred in the Fourth Month of the pre¬ 
ceding year. 

396. Lit. "ladies certainly do not forget such things". Yet, only four months later, Shonagon 
herself forgot a far more famous poem (section 94). 

397. Lit. "they must fie the tears of parting of dew". Tadanobu is quoting from a Chinese 
poem by Sugawara no Michizane concerning the unhappy love of the Weaver and the 
Herdsman (note 34): 

The tears she sheds on parting will turn to dew when morning comes... 

Those tears, like pearls, that fall in vain... 

398. See note 330. Because of his appalling ugliness the God of Mount Kazuraki, to whom 
Tadanobu playfully compares himself, had to hide during the daytime. As Kaneko points 

out (Hyoshaku, p. 766), it is a rather trite joke and hardly worthy of a man of Tadanobu's 
parts. Possibly he has been thrown off balance by Shonagon's recent comment and 
cannot find anything better to offer as a parting shot. 

399. The terms are as follows (for the game of go see note 49): "To yield one's hand": to 
place one's pieces without paying too much attention to one's opponent's strategy; a 
daring style of play in which one occasionally risks one's own position in the expectation 
of later successes and in the hope that one's opponent will not be able to take 
advantage of one's temporary weakness. Thus a man and a woman who are on intimate 
terms may be prepared to risk" showing their hands". 

"To fill up the spaces": to fill in the points that neither player can claim as his own 
territory. These spaces are known as "false eyes", and the process of filling them 
alternately with black and white stones is one of the last stages in a game of go. In the 
same way the physical intimacy of a couple "tying the true lovers" knot" is the 
culminating stage in their relationship. 

"To keep one's hand": the opposite of "yielding one's hand"; a cautious style of play in 
which one is constantly on one's guard, closely observing one's opponent's moves. Here 
Shonagon and Tadanobu refer to men and women who handle their partners with 

"To part the pieces": the final stage in the game is to determine which of the players 
controls the larger territory, that is, has secured the greater number of viable "eyes". In 
order to facilitate the counting, the players "break up" the position, re-arranging the 
pieces in such a way that the territories controlled by the two sides are clearly visible. 
Just as in go "parting the pieces" is the ultimate stage of the game (after "filling up the 
spaces"), so in a love affair "intolerable familiarity" is the final stage (after physical 

400. The exchange between Nobukata and Shonagon is full of double meanings, based on 
the secret go language (note 399). When Nobukata asks whether she will yield her hand, 
he is in fact suggesting that their relations become more intimate. Next he tells her that 
he is as good a player (i.e. lover) as Tadanobu. Kaneko (Hyoshaku, p. 767) remarks on 
the unsubtle way in which Nobukata uses the secret language. Not surprisingly, 
Shonagon rejects his overtures. "If I played like that" means "if I gave myself to every 
man who asked me". Then comes an ingenious pun: sadamenaki means (i) not fixed, 
flighty, (ii) lacking a fixed "eye" (i.e. a secure space as opposed to an insecure "false 
eye") in go. "Roving eye" suggests some of the implications, but of course there is 
nothing in English corresponding to the use of "eye" in the game of go. 

401. "Had not yet reached the term of thirty": i.e. he did not live to be thirty. This is a 
Chinese poem by Minamoto no Hideakira: 

Yen Hui, the sage of Chou, had not yet reached the term of thirty; 

And Pan Yueh, great gentleman of Chin, 

Wrote his "Song of Autumn Thoughts" at an early age. 

Both were some years younger than myself 

Who here observe my first grey hairs. 

So let me now rejoice 

That their sight has been delayed so long. 

The poet, whose hair is turning white, at the age of thirty- five, consoles himself by 
recalling two distinguished men of ancient times to whom this (or something worse) 
happened at even earlier ages. Pan Yueh became white-haired at thirty-two; Yen Hui 
died in his twenties. 

402. Clerk was the lowest of the four classes of officials in a government department (App. 
2). In the Inner Palace Guards he had the rank of Assistant Lieutenant. 

403. In his forties Chu Mai-ch~en (d. 116 B.C.) was still an im- pecunious wood-cutter. When 
his wife threatened to leave him, Chu admonished her, saying, "I am already forty, but I 
shall have riches and honours by the time I am fifty." Despite these assurances his wife 
deserted him. Thanks to his tireless .studies Chu achieved his ambition and became the 
governor of a province. His wife then returned to him but was so ashamed by the 
magnanimous way in which he received her that she hanged herself in remorse. The 
story appears in the History of the Former Han Dynasty. 

Nobukata was in fact twenty-seven (or twenty-eight in the Japanese count). According 
to Kaneko ( Hyoshoku , p. 768), Shonagon is teasing him by pretending that he appears 
much older than he actually is. 

404. The original has "forty-nine", but this is almost certainly a copyist's error for "over 

405. Else he would hardly have told the Emperor something so unflattering about himself. 

406. A pun on the name of his mistress's mother (uchifusu = "to lie down") The reason that 
Nobukata is ridiculed for his affair with "Sakyo and finally breaks it off is probably 
connected with the humble birth of her mother; Uchifushi appears to have been a 
lower-class name. 

407. Shonagon may be referring to private celebrations which were carried out near the 
Palace but which it was impossible, owing to protocol, for her and other members of the 
Court to attend. 

408. Because the temple seems close but in fact takes a long time to reach because of the 
constant turns in the path. 

409. Paradise refers to the Pure Land or Western Paradise, into which the believer who 
invokes the name of Amida Buddha will be reborn. The following statement is attributed 
to the great Amidist leader, Genshin (942-1017): "Though [Paradise] be infinitely distant 
- separated by seas and mountains and thousands of millions of provinces - yet I tell 
thee: if only the path of thy spirit be smooth, thou canst reach it overnight." 

410. When boats kept their course, they could travel a great distance in a surprisingly short 
time, whereas travel by land was slow and uncomfortable. 

411. The posts of Senior Secretary (Ministry of Ceremonial), Senior Lieutenant (Outer Palace 
Guards), and Senior Scribe normally corresponded to the Sixth Rank (App. 2); for such an 
official to be appointed to the Fifth Rank was an unusual honour. 

When a Chamberlain of the Sixth Rank was promoted, he automatically lost his right of 
attendance on the Emperor; hence their reluctance. 

412. These are marks of ostentation, unwarranted for a man of this rank and clearly 
condemned by Sei Shonagon. Readers of The Tale ofGenji will recall Murasaki's sarcastic 
descriptions of the efforts of parvenus like the Governor of Hitachi to decorate their 
houses in a style to which neither their rank nor their taste entitles them. Such 
uneducated efforts are bound to result in incongruities. The trees in the garden and the 
private carriages, for example, make an absurd contrast with the small, shingle-roofed 
house where the ambitious official lives. The effect is something like that of a Rolls 
Royce parked in front of a small, semi-detached villa in the suburbs. Shonagon herself 
belonged to the provincial (Fifth Rank) class and was particularly sensitive to the 
pretensions of some of its members. 

413. Sage-brush was the standard mark of the dilapidated Heian dwelling. Book 15 of The 
Tale ofGenji, which describes the red-nosed Suetsumuhana and her desolate 
household, is entitled Yomogiu (lit. "land overgrown with sage-brush", i.e. waste land, 
or (Waley) "The Palace in the Tangled Woods"). The forlorn dwelling of Lady Toshikage 
in Utsubo Monogatari is similarly surrounded by sage-brush. 

It was customary to strew fine white sand on the gardens of Heian houses to protect 
people and carriages from mud, and also for aesthetic reasons (W.S.P., p. 45). 

414. Because she is in her own home. The parents of Court ladies appear to have been quite 
lax with their daughters. 

415. From the poem by Taira no Kanemori: 

Here in my mountain home 

The snow is deep 

And the paths are buried [in white]. 

Truly would he move my heart - 

The man who came today. 

416. On the arrival of male visitors ladies usually retired behind their curtains of state or 
blinds, from where they could see but not be seen. 

Kaneko ( Hyoshaku , pp. 796-7) refers admiringly to the endurance of the Heian 
gentlemen, who can spend an entire winter's night on an unheated veranda for the 
pleasure of viewing the snow while conversing with Court ladies. 

417. He refers to the Chinese poem: 

At dawn I walked into the garden of the King of Liang; 

Snow lay upon the many hills. 

At night I climbed the Tower of the Duke of Yu; 

The moon lit up the country for a thousand miles. 

The hills in question had been artificially built in the king's garden. The correct quotation 
would be "cluster of hills"; but the courtier, not having the benefit of modern 
commentaries, simply says "such-and-such hills". 

418. Lit. "the time of snow, moon, flowers". From a poem of Po Chu-i: 

My friends—the zither, poetry and wine— 

Have all three left me; 

It's when I see the moon, the snow, the flowers. 

That I most recall my lord. 

419. A web of ingenious puns, whose general flavour I have tried to convey by a few simple 
word-plays in English. Lady Hyae's composition is more like a conundrum than a proper 

420. Because they were covered by her sleeves. In the winter the long sleeves of Heian 
robes served as a sort of muff. 

Light-pink hue: lit. "light plum blossom". Kaneko (Hyoshaku, p. 813) rather prosaically 
suggests that it was the cold which gave the Empress's hands their attractive colour. 

421. Lady in charge of my room: lady-in-waiting in charge of a number of younger maids-of- 
honour who lived in the same room or set of rooms. 

422. 4.12. Shen: region in China that produced a type of aromatic wood imported into Japan 
and used for making braziers, etc. 

423. The Empress and her brother are referring to the poem quoted in note 415. 

424. cf. note 73. Sneezing in Heian Japan had many of the same implications as in the West 
(see W.S.P., p. 142), but in addition it suggested that the last person who had spoken 
was-not telling the truth. 

425. The first poem is fairly clear. Shonagon's reply, however, is most obscure. Kaneko's 
interpretation is as follows (Hyoshaku, p. 811): If I did not really love the Empress, the 
insincerity of my reply ("How could I possibly not be found of you?") might well be 
determined by someone's sneezing in the next room; but, since in fact I do love her 
deeply, it makes me wretched to think that something as trivial as a sneeze should have 
made her judge me to be dishonest. Here is a more literal translation: 

A shallow [feeling can] indeed 
Depend on that. 

[But] it is sad that I too should know 


Because of a sneeze (nose). 

426. Shiki was the name of a demon invoked by magicians and other practitioners of the 
occult when they wished to put a curse on someone. Shonagon implies that the ill-timed 
sneeze was due to a power of this kind. 

427. See note 424. He looks pleased with himself because every- one wishes him good luck 
(cf. "God bless you!" in the West). Kaneko (Hyoshaku, p. 81o) quotes the late Heian 
poet, Kensho: "Sneezing is altogether ominous. If someone sneezes at the New Year, 
everyone wishes him good luck." It appears that in Shonagon's day this custom was not 
restricted to any particular time of the year. Cf. p. 47 for Shonagon's dislike of sneezers. 

428. Hidden rhymes: popular game among the aristocracy; one of the players covered a 
character in some old Chinese poem, and the winner was the player who, from context, 
rhythm, etc., first guessed the hidden character. 

429. See notes 49, 399, 400. Because of the large size of the go board and because the 
stones cannot be moved to a new place once they have been played, the battle in its 
early stages can be carried out on several independent fronts. A player who decides that 
he is not making sufficient head- way on one part of the board may switch his attention 
to another sector. In the present instance he is- pleasantly surprised to find that his 
opponent's position in this new sector is weaker than it had appeared to be. The 
opponent is unable to keep the "eyes" that determine the viability and value of any 
position and the greedy player succeeds in capturing a large number of stones. If he had 
played in a more conservative way and continued to concentrate on the original part of 
the board, he might have missed the opportunity. 

In go as in chess a "greedy" player is one who is more interested in capturing his 
opponent's stones (pieces) than in slowly building up a strong position. 

430. The parvenu governor with his absurd pretensions is a stock figure in Heian literature 
(cf. note 412). 

431. High ranks in the Imperial Guards were as a rule honorary positions reserved for 
members of the aristocracy. A provincial governor would naturally be more flattered to 
receive such an appointment than a young nobleman, who would take it for granted. 

432. Empresses were usually chosen from the Imperial family itself or from among the 
daughters of the Chancellor, the Regent, or one of the Great Ministers. When Shonagon 
writes about a High Court Noble's daughter who has been appointed to the rank of 
Empress, she may be thinking of Fujiwara no Takeko, the daughter of Naritoki, who was 
appointed First Empress to Emperor Sanjo though her father during his lifetime never 
advanced beyond the rank of Major Counsellor. 

433. Palace Chaplain: one often priests in charge of the Palace Oratory, where they carried 
out readings of the scriptures, made offerings to the Buddhist statues, etc. They were 
frequently on night duty, and therefore tended to come into contact with the Court 

434. The padded garments were worn in the rainy season and then put aside during the hot 
summer months. As the summer advanced, the weather became so stifling that even 
clothes of unlined silk were uncomfortable. Then all of a sudden there was a cool,~ rainy 
wind, and people had to throw their padded clothes over their silk ones, making for the 
kind of incongruous combinations that frequency struck Shonagon's fancy. 

435. The thirteen-pipe flute was a rather formidable instrument, and the player had to puff 
out his cheeks in order to fill the air chamber. 

436. In Heian times people's hair stood on end when they were deeply impressed by 
something, rather than when they were frightened (cf. p. 229). 

437. The Special Festival at Kamo (note 176) took place during the height of winter in the 
Eleventh Month. 

The flowers that the participants in the Special Festivals wore in their head-dress 
(wisteria for the Imperial envoys, cherry blossom or yellow roses for the dancers and 
musicians) were artificial. 

438. As a rule the envoys, who followed the dance in the Kamo procession, were chosen 
from among the Imperial Guards (note 176), but on this occasion high provincial officials 
had been selected for the honour. Shonagon's scorn for these officials is typical of 
contemporary attitudes (W.S.P., pp. 93-7) and was not mitigated by the fact that her 
own father belonged to this class. 

439. The princess pines that grow outside All-powerful Kamo Shrine - Ten thousand years 
may pass away And yet their colour will not fade. 

Himekomatsu is the short pine or Pinus parriflora. Chihayaburu ("swift and mighty", "all- 
powerful") is a stock epithet (makura kotoba) used in poetry before the names of gods 
and shrines. 

An introductory note explains that Toshiyuki's poem was associated with the winter 
festival at Kamo. 

440. Bureau of Imperial Attendants: Bureau under the Ministry of Central Affairs (App. 2). It 
was in charge of the Imperial Attendants who served the Emperor in the Palace and 
during Imperial Processions. The Assistant Directors belonged to the Senior Sixth Rank, 
Lower Grade. 

441. cf. p. 69. 

442. Lit. "shoulder palanquin, hand palanquin, etc.". These were the conveyances used by 
the High Priestess within the precincts of the Shrine. When she left the Shrine, she 
travelled by ox-carriage. The porters (in red clothes) are now carrying back the empty 

443. After the Kamo Festival a special banquet was held in the palace of the High Priestess. 
The guests of honour were princes of the blood and top-ranking officials like the 
Chancellor; in addition a number of gentlemen were invited as "extra guests". 

444. The gentleman refers to the love poem: 

The fleecy clouds that scatter on the peak. 

Blown asunder by the mountain winds - 
Surely your heart is not all cold like them. 

445. The original has "yesterday, the day before yesterday, today". This type of departure 
from the normal chronological or numerical order is an idiosyncrasy of Shonagon's. Cf. 
p. 21, where she speaks of the crows flying "in threes and fours and twos". 

446. Shonagon deviates from conventional standards of male beauty, which prescribed 
narrow eyes for men as well as for women (W.S.P., p. 156). 

447. Large winter cherries were used as toys or dolls. 

448. Traffic congestion and altercations of this kind were a normal occurrence at Heian 
processions and ceremonies. Known as kuruma-arasoi, they figure frequently in 
contemporary literature (see W.S.P., pp 51-2). 

The present encounter was a very mild one and Shonagon obviously enjoyed it. 

449. The Empress's message contains the first three lines (seventeen syllables) of a poem. 
Shonagon's reply caps it, in linked-verse style, by providing two final lines (fourteen 
syllables). The exchange is more ingenious than poetic. "Though innocent of rain" refers 

to a woman's virtue; but in view of her many love affairs Shonagon can hardly have 
expected the Empress to take this protestation too seriously. 

450. i.e. Prince Atsuyasu, who was six months old. 

451. The flour used for these cakes was made from unripe ("green") wheat. 

452. The phrase "from across the fence" means "from outside"; it comes from the poem. 

Stretching his neck across the fence. 

The little colt can scarcely reach the wheat. 

So I myself cannot attain 

The object of my love. 

The link between the poem and the cake (note 451) is the word "wheat". 

The Empress's poem is rather cryptic. "To hurry about searching for flowers and 
butterflies" means "to be busy with festive activities". Possibly Sadako implies that on 
this day of the Iris Festival, when all the other ladies are busy with elaborate 
preparations for the joyful occasion, only Shonagon, by presenting her with a simple 
green-wheat cake" from across the fence", shows that she has understood her 
mistress's somewhat melancholy mood. As Kaneko points out (Hyoshaku, pp. 890-91), 
this was a time when things were not going too well for Empress Sadako, owing to the 
elevation of Akiko to the rank of Ch ug u and to the growing hostility of the Michinaga 
faction (note 323). 

453. Narinobu's great acoustic talent (section 131) was to tell who was speaking; 
Masamitsu's lay in distinguishing what they said. 

454. Black-lacquered boxes and tiled inkstones were inelegant types of writing equipment. 

455. Miwa Shrine at the foot of Mount Miwa in Yamato (Shiki) was famous for the 
cryptomeria that grew at its entrance. A poem of Ki no Tsurayuki has the words. 

It is the sugi tree 

That marks Mount Miwa's heights. 

456. This can be taken to mean literally, "prayers that are fully answered". The basis is a 
punning poem that starts. 

This is indeed a shrine 

Where every prayer's been glibly answered [by the God], 

("In such an indiscriminate I glib way" has a decidedly disrespectful tone). 

457. In the collected works of Kino Tsurayuki we read that one day, when he was riding 
back to the capital, his horse suddenly became ill. The local inhabitants informed him, 
"This is the doing of the God who dwells in these parts. For all these many years he has 
had no shrine, and there is nothing to mark his presence here. Yet he is a fearful God, 
and this is how he always lets people know of his existence." Since Tsurayuki had no 
suitable offering to present to the irate deity, he simply washed his hands (to acquire 
ritual purity) and, "facing the hill, where no sign of the God existed", dedicated the 
following poem to him: How could I have known That in l:his cloudy, unfamiliar sky 
There dwelt the Passage of the Ants? Thereupon the God, appeased by this belated 
recognition of his existence, promptly restored the poet's horse to health. 

458. The legend of Aridoshi probably dates in its present form from the eighth century, but 
it is an amalgam of various ancient traditions. Part I of Samyukta-Ratna-Pitaka Sutra, 
"The Sutra of the Collection of Varied Jewels", refers to the exile of old people and also 
describes the puzzles of the piece of wood and of the two snakes. The story of the jewel 
and the cats occurs in a Chinese Buddhist work, Tsu ting shih yuan, which was compiled 
during the Sung period; in this version, however, the jewel has nine, in- stead of seven, 
curves. The story in which a king tests the level of intelligence in a foreign state by 
posing various problems (usually three) is an old one, being told inter alia in the thirty- 
three-chapter Han compilation, Chan kuo tse, "Schemes of the Warring States", and in 
the Japanese chronicle, Bidatsu Tenno Ki. 

The entire legend is brought up to date and Japanized by the hero's rank of Middle 
Captain of the Inner Palace Guards. The Captain's filial piety makes him a standard 
Confucian-type hero and a striking contrast to the officer described in section 164. 

459. i.e. which end of the log grew nearer the trunk of the tree from which it was cut? 

460. The god's poem (whose source is unknown) is a typical example of early pseudo¬ 
etymology: almost certainly Aridoshi Shrine in Izumi became associated with the legend 
because of its name, not vice versa. 

461. "The tints that leave at dawn": this is traditionally believed to have come from a poem 
by Sung Yu (fl. 290-223 B.C.), 

At dawn [they] make the morning clouds. 

At night [they] make the driving rain. 

462. cf. p. 109. The name zoshiki (Subordinate Official) means "various colours" and derived 
from the fact that, whereas the colours worn by gentlemen of higher rank were 
stipulated in the legal codes, these lowly officials were free to wear any colour that was 
not specifically prohibited. 

463. These belts were part of the Court uniform, but were not usually worn by gentlemen 
on night watch. 

464. A village about one mile west of the capital; it was the site of Koryu Ji, a Shingon 
temple built in 603 on the orders of Shotoku Taishi. 

465. Shonagon is thinking of a Kokin Shu autumn poem, which contains a typical lament 
about the rapid passage of time: 

Only yesterday, it seems. 

They were pulling out the sprouts. 

And now already autumn's stolen up. 

And rice leaves rustle in the wind. 

In Shonagon's time, as today, the light-green rice sprouts were pulled from the seed-bed 
in the spring (at about the time of the Kamo Festival) and planted in the paddy-fields by 
hand; in the autumn, when the ears were formed, the field was drained and harvesting 

466. A knife or something of the sort: Shonagon again shows her unfamiliarity with 
agricultural matters. She is obviously referring to a scythe. 

467. This is almost identical with the last paragraph of section 63; but here Shonagon is 
interested not so much in the awkwardness of the situation as in whether or not an un¬ 
faithful son-in-law feels sorry for the wife he has deserted. 

468. Kite's tail: refers to the end of each of the shafts of an ox-carnage. 

469. Even other women: the implication (a rather dubious one) is that women are less 
critical than men when it comes to judging a girl's appearance. 

470. Object match: lit. "comparison of objects". See note 380. Among the "objects" used in 
these games were flowers, roots, seashells, birds, "insects, fans, and paintings. 

471. The Empress refers to the Kokin Shu poem. 

Inconsolable my heart 

As I gaze upon the moon that shines 

On Sarashina's Mount Obasute. 

The Empress implies that Shonagon manages to comfort herself too easily, and 
contrasts her with the inconsolable poet who gazed at the moon in Sarashina. The other 
ladies express the idea that Shonagon's method of curing her world-weariness is far too 
cheap; prayers for warding off evil normally involved making expensive gifts to Buddhist 

472. Sutra of Longevity: a short sutra frequently recited or copied in order to ward off 
personal dangers and to secure a long life. The Empress refers to this particular sutra 
because of (a) Shonagon's feeling that she cannot go on living for another moment (p. 
218), (b) the ladies' comment about a prayer for warding off evil (p. 218). The statement 
that the paper is of poor quality belongs, of course, to the "Please step into my filthy 
hovel" class of modesty. 

473. Shonagon refers to her earlier remark that the sight of some good paper makes her 
feel she can stay a little longer on earth. The crane is a standard symbol of longevity in 
the Far East, and numerous Japanese poems refer to his thousand-year life expectancy. 

474. Soshi (collection of notes): collection of miscellaneous notes, impressions, anecdotes, 
etc., of which Shonagon's Pillow Book (Makura no Soshi) is the only extant example 
from the Heian period. Shonagon must have received this paper from the Empress well 
after the notebooks mentioned in section 185 (note 582), and it seems likely that she 
had already started writing her Pillow Book by this time. 

475. If the messenger in red had been found, Shonagon would have asked him whether he 
came from the Empress; since he has disappeared, she prefers not to let the people in 
her house know what she is thinking. 

476. The action described in this section takes place in 994, the year before Michitaka's 
death, when he and his immediate family were at the very height of their power and 
glory (App. 5). For Dedication of the Sutras see note 89. The Full Canon was a 
compilation of all the sutras containing the statements of Gautama Buddha with 
commentaries. Originally it consisted of 5084 volumes, but later it reached the grand 
total of 8534. The copying and recitation of this vast collection was, of course, a major 
event in the capital. Shakuzen Temple had been founded by Michitaka himself in his 

father's Hoko Palace four years earlier (see note 276). Only a very small proportion of 
this section (the longest single section in The Pillow Book) deals with the religious 
ceremony itself; Shonagon's real interest lay elsewhere. 

477. Palace of the Second Ward: this was the building in which Empress Sadako frequently 
resided when she left the Imperial Palace enclosure; it was situated quite near Shakuzen 
Temple (App. JC) and was therefore convenient for attending the present services. 

478. The cherry trees usually came into bloom in the Second Month of the lunar calendar; 
the plum blossoms appeared about one month earlier. The vile custom of decorating 
trees with artificial paper blossoms was already well established in Shonagon's time; 
despite her usual fastidiousness, she does not object to it in the slightest. 

479. From an anonymous separation poem: 

Sadly I behold them. 

The cherry blossoms moistened by the dew. 

Like tearful lovers 
Forced to say farewell. 

480. Minamoto no Kanezumi was a poet and provincial governor. The present line does not 
appear among his extant works. There is, however, a poem by the priest, Sosei, that 
does contain the words in question: 

Let him tell me what he will. 

The mountain warden of these parts! 

I'll pick a spray of cherry blooms On Takasago's Mount Onoe, 

And wear them as a chaplet on my head. 

Either Shonagon has confused the authors, or there is a non- extant poem by Kanezumi 
that may be similar to Sosei's. 

481. i.e. his idea that the ruined paper blossoms should be removed while it was still dark. 

482. Possibly an allusion to the poem by Hitomaro which contains the syllepsis, "both the 
rain and my tears come pouring down". But the Empress's phrase is a fairly standard 
one, and she may not be referring to any particular poem. Whether or not this is a 
quotation, the Empress is subtly indicating that she understands her father's motive in 
ordering the rain-drenched blossoms to be removed. 

483. This is a pun on asagao = (i) morning face, i.e. one's dishevelled appearance on getting 
up in the morning, (ii) "morning face", i.e. the althea flower. Now that the sun has risen 
it is "unseasonal" for Shonagon to look as if she has just woken up; the Second Month is 
unseasonal for the althea. 

484. In the tenth century the suggestion that someone was telling a falsehood had far less 
damaging implications in Japan than in the West and was usually more in the nature of a 
joke than of an accusation. 

485. The Empress alludes to Tsurayuki's poem. 

The time has come 

To till the rice fields in the hills. 

Oh, do not blame the wind 

For scattering the blossoms [far and wide below]! 

Quoting, with a few changes, from the first two lines of the poem. Empress Sadako 
suggests that Shonagon should not blame the wind for removing the blossoms when she 
knows perfectly well who the real culprit is. 

486. "Simple remark" normally referred to a conversational statement that did not include 
any quotation from Chinese or Japanese. 

487. The Empress is quoting from Po Chu-i: 

In the Ninth Month the west wind quickens; 

[Under] the cold moon, flowers of frost have formed. 

When I think upon my lord, the spring day seems long. 

My soul, nine times, rises towards him in one night. 

In the Second Month the east wind comes. 

Tearing at the plants till the flowers lay bare their hearts. 

When I think upon my lord, the spring day passes slowly. 

My heart, nine times, leaps up to him in one night. 

Sadako is asking Shonagon whether she misses her lord (i.e. herself); Shonagon replies 
that she does miss her ("I feel my heart rising nine times towards you in the night") and 
implies that she will soon return. The phrase "my heart... leaps up" refers to the painful 
uncertainties of love. 

488. The following scene is a "flashback" describing what happened during and immediately 
after the move mentioned on p. 220; if the narrative were in normal time sequence, this 
scene would of course come before the story of the cherry blossoms. 

489. cf. p. 198. 

490. "Ill-natured" might seem a strong word to describe Shonagon's suggestion that the 
serving-women should be seated before herself and her companions; but, in view of 
Heian class attitudes, the idea that the normal order of procedure might be reversed 
was nothing short of indecent. 

491. Normally carriages were lit at. night by pine-torches; but this one was intended for" 
servants and therefore left suitably murky. 

492. Four passengers were the normal complement of a carriage (W.S.P., p. 52). 

493. About 4 a.m. See App. 1. 

494. Fujiwara no Korechika and his younger brother, Takaie. 

495. Doctor attached to the Bureau of Medicine; this Bureau, which was under the Ministry 
of the Imperial Flousehold (App. 2), was in charge of curing people of the Fifth Rank and 
above (see W.S.P., p. 146). 

496. "Forbidden colours" were those, like dark purple, that could be worn only by members 
of the Imperial family or High Court Nobles. Light purple and grape colour were not 
included among the forbidden colours. Yamanoi's remark, in which he refers to a Palace 
Girl by a man's name, is entirely facetious. 

497. Onion-flower, decoration: onion-shaped metal finial "on the roof of an Imperial 
palanquin. The onion was regarded as an auspicious decoration because of its long-lived 

498. This refers to ceremonial Court music of the gagaku type, which had been imported 
from the Continent and which was preserved in Japan long after it disappeared in its 
country of origin. 

499. In order to keep their long hair in place, ladies often tucked it under their jackets, 
especially when travelling; but the shaking of the carriage was apt to disarrange it. 

500. There appears to have been a young Fujiwara gentleman of this name. Possibly he was 
reputed to have an eye for women; this would explain the need to get Shonagon and 
her companions out of their carriages secretly. 

501. Elephant-eye silk: Chinese silk decorated with delicate gold and silver designs. 

502. Master of the Household: i.e. Master of the Office of the Empress's Household (App. 

2); refers here to Fujiwara no Michinaga, who later became Empress Sadako's greatest 
political enemy. See W.S.P., pp. 76-7. 

503. This passage provides a good illustration of the type of jealousy that prevailed among 
the ladies at Court. All of them vied for the favours of the Empress and therefore tended 
to resent her particular affection for Shonagon. (Murasaki Shikibu's diary suggests that 
she suffered from similar jealousy at Empress Akiko's Court.) When the Empress tells 
Saisho to go and see what is happening in the gentlemen's hall; the lady realizes that 
her mistress intends to put Shonagon in her place on the straw mat. She replies rather 
bluntly that there is room for three people on the mat (i.e. herself. Lady Chunagon, and 
Shonagon). Sadako's "Very well then" is a shorthand way of saying, "Well, if you feel" so 
strongly about it, you may as well stay where you are." She then invites Shonagon to sit 
near her on the mat. This irks some of the other ladies-in-waiting who are seated on a 
lower level, where they cannot observe the ceremony so well, and they vent their 
annoyance by denigrating Shonagon , whose social position is of course inferior to that 
of Ladies Saisho and Chunagon. First, one of them compares her to a page-boy, who is 
not normally allowed into the Imperial presence even though he may be favoured on 
special occasions. Another jealous lady com- pares her to a mounted escort, implying 
that, despite the Empress's partiality, Shonagon's social relationship to Lady Saisho is 
like that of an inferior attendant to his master. There is a reference here to the fact that 
Saisho's father, Atsusuke, was Director of the Bureau of Horses, Right Division (Uma Ryo 
no Kami). Shonagon wisely refuses to allow this backbiting to spoil her pleasure. 

504. Military paraphernalia might seem inappropriate for a Bud4hist ceremony; but the 
function of the Guards was almost entirely ceremonial and it was the elegance of the 
uniform that counted. 

505. This is one of the great days in Michitaka's life and he does not want its memory to )?e 
spoiled by subsequent complaints that the women were uncomfortable in their formal 

506. They wept for joy. For a discussion of male weeping see W.S.P., pp. 157-8. 

507. Michitaka refers facetiously to the fact that Buddhist priests wear robes of the same 
red colour as Shonagon's jacket. 

508. The names of Buddhist priests were read in the Sino- Japanese pronunciation; Sei, 
which is the Sino-Japanese reading of the first element of what is generally believed to 
be the author's family name (Kiyowara), lends itself to Korechika's witticism in a way 
that would be impossible with pure Japanese names like Ono, Izumi, and Murasaki. 

509. The numerous stone images of Jizo in Japan represent him as a Buddhist priest with 
shaven head, clad in bonze's vestments and carrying a rosary. Ryuen was the Empress's 
brother (note 235); hence his presence among the ladies-in- waiting. Despite his high 
ecclesiastical rank, he was only fifteen years old. 

510. The flowers were artificial (cf. note 4 78). 

511. Prayer for Salvation: comprises sixteen characters from the Amitayur Buddha Dhyana 
Sutra. Anesaki gives the following translation: 

His light pervades the world in all the ten directions. 

His grace never forsakes anyone who invokes his name. 

Masahara Anesaki, History of Japanese Religion, p. 178. 

512. Reference to an old love poem: 

Though close at hand 
The Chika kilns 
In Michinoku's land. 

People can still not meet their salty taste. 

Lit. "the saltiness does not meet people", i.e. even though the salt-kilns are close, their 
salty flavour does not reach people in the vicinity. There is a play of words on Chika = (i) 
place name, (ii) close. The poem applies to a situation in which, although two people 
happen to be near each other (like Empress Sadako and the Empress Dowager during 
the present ceremony), they are still unable to meet. 

513. Such a reduction in retinue was normal on the return from ceremonies, festivals, etc. 

514. Karma: if it had rained on the previous day, much of the ceremony would have been 
ruined. Michitaka attributes his good luck with the weather to an accumulation of merit 
in previous incarnations (cf. note 28 s). 

515. About midnight. 

516. Emperor Ichijo was a keen flautist (W.S.P., p. 6o). For music at night see W.S.P., pp. 
162, 200. 

517. Minamoto no Kanesuke, the Governor of lyo, descended from a brother of Emperor 
Seiwa (reg. 858-76), the main ancestor of the Minamoto clan. His daughter was 
originally one of Fujiwara no Takaie's wives and she had at least two children by him; 
after her husband's disgrace she transferred her affections to the handsome young 
Narinobu, only to be abandoned by him a few years later. 

518. Hyobu = Military Affairs. No doubt she had a father, brother, or other close relative in 
the Ministry of Military Affairs. The lady's full last name was therefore something like 

Taira no Hyobu, but the other ladies teased her by using her original family name, which 
was presumably a rather humble one. 

519. This was unusual. The names of most of the Court ladies consisted of the offices, ranks, 
provinces, etc. with which their close relations were associated (e.g. Shikibu, Uma, 
Sammi, Naishi, Izumi, Sagami, Ise), or pseudonyms like Murasaki and Sei, or personal 
names like Yoshiko and Akiko. 

520. Shonagon is offended by the idea that Narinobu, who had come to visit her, should so 
easily have been put off by her pretence at being asleep and that he should have been 
satisfied to spend the night with such an inferior creature as Hyobu. Her reaction, in 
other words, is what men often describe as "feminine". 

521. Shonagon is coyly referring to herself. 

522. cf. note 84. 

523. The episode of the old fan (about which we know nothing since Komano no 
Monogatari is not extant) seems to have made a particular impression on Shonagon . 

524. From the poem. 

The evening now is dark. 

The path has disappeared from sight. 

As I go towards my native town. 

Yet I ride without a care - 
My horse has come this way before. 

525. Shonagon refers to Ochikubo Monogatari, "The Tale of Room Below", a romance in 
four scrolls written towards the end of the tenth century (authorship unknown) and 
telling the story of an unfortunate young lady who is mis- treated by her stepmother but 
eventually rescued by the hero, Sakon no Shosho. Captain Katano (Katana no Shosho) 
figures as an unsuccessful rival for the heroine's hand, but the extant version of 
Ochikubo Monogatari contains no reference to his being criticized by the hero. "Captain 
Ochikubo" is clearly Ukon no Shosho, and the extant version does in fact contain a. 
scene in which he pays the heroine- a "third-night visit" (W.S.P., p. 227) in the rain and 
has to wash the muck off his feet. 

526. Possibly an allusion to the poem 

Until my life becomes extinct. 

How can she vanish from my thoughts - 
She whom I cherish more each day? 

The quoted line means "Can I (or he) forget?" 

527. Short green robe: worn by men of the Sixth Rank. For its derogatory connotations see 
W.S.P., p. 81. As a rule Shonagon would not have welcomed a gentleman visitor below 
the Fifth Rank. 

528. Even by Heian standards (W.S.P., p. 194) this is a rather laconic communication. Its 
implication, however, would instantly be grasped by any perceptive member of Court 
society: "There is nothing special for me to say, except to ask how you are enjoying this 

529. Reference to the opening lines of the poem: 

When dawn appears. 

The ceaseless cry of the cicadas 

[Greets my ears]... 

530. This is obviously a quotation, but the source is unknown. According to some of the 
early commentaries, the gentle- man is referring to a Kokin Shu poem in which the 
writer compares his growing love to Yodo River, whose waters swell in the rain. 

531. Because the tip of the writing-brush was frozen; but, as Kaneko remarks (Hyoshaku, p. 
1022), this is surely an exaggeration. It is also hard to understand how Shonagon could 
have observed the delicate indentations and other details of the letter from where she 
was standing. 

532. Thunder Guard: another name for the Inner Palace Guards, derived from the fact, that, 
when there were violent thunderstorms, members of the Inner Palace Headquarters 
would arm-themselves with bows and arrows and post themselves in Seiryo and Shishin 
Palaces to protect the distinguished inhabitants from harm. 

533. i.e. "Proceed to the Imperial Palace" or "Return to bar- racks". 

534. "How is the snow on Hsiang-lu peak?": the Empress refers to some famous lines of Po 

The sun has risen in the sky, but I idly lie in bed; 

In my small tower-room the layers of quilts protect me from the cold; 

Leaning on my pillow, I wait to hear l-ai's temple bell; 

Pushing aside the blind, I gaze upon the snow of Hsiang-lu peak... 

The poem was well known in Heian Kyo. It had been imitated by Sugawara no 
Michizane; and, as Shonagon points out, it was often rendered in Japanese form. Once 
again, it is not Shonagon's erudition that distinguishes her from the other ladies but her 
ability to rise instantly to the occasion. 

535. Shonagon compares the leaves of the unsightly willow tree to human eyebrows 
(mayu); the eyebrow image leads directly to the word "face" in "lose face". Mayu also 
has the sense of cocoon, and there is a further implicit comparison between cocoons 
and the downy buds of the willow. Like so many of Shonagon's verses, the present one 
is more ingenious than poetic. 

536. It has been hard enough for the Empress to get through the past two days (lit. 
"yesterday and today"). How, she wonders, can she have managed to exist during the 
long period before Shonagon came into service? The exchange of this type of romantic 
poetry between ladies at Court was entirely conventional and should not be taken as 
evidence of Lesbian attachments (see W.S.P., p. 233 n.). 

537. An allusion to the poem. 

Evening comes 

And still I pine away; 

Truly the time seems long. 

Long as the pine tree's life: 

I feel as though I'd waited for a thousand years. 

There is the usual pun on matsu = (i) to wait (pine), (ii) pine tree. 

538. "One who lives above the clouds" refers, of course, to the Empress. High members of 
Court society were commonly known as "people above the clouds". 

539. This is probably a reference to Fukakusa no Shosho. He fell in love with the famous 
ninth-century poetess and beauty, Ono no Komachi, but she said that she would trust 
and accept him only after he had spent every night outside her house for one hundred 
nights. Captain Fukakusa almost managed to pass the test; but he succumbed on the 
ninety- ninth night and accordingly failed to win Komachi. His un- appeased spirit 
returns to torment her in Kayoi Komachi, a famous No play. 

In a type of insincere hyperbole that was common in Court circles Shonagon suggests 
that she too may be un- able to survive her last night away from the object of her 
devotion (i.e. the Empress). 

540. Because, says Kaneko (Hyoshaku, p. 1031), Shonagon's reply poem was more 
concerned with her own unhappy feelings than with those of the Empress. 

541. The "mountain" (which is really more of a hill) is Otowa Yama; Kiyomizu Temple is 
situated about half-way up the slope. 

542. The lotus petal is artificial, like those on p. 233. Possibly Shonagon selected it from 
among the petals that had been used in the Buddhist rite of scattering flowers. Both red 
and purple were associated with sunset and there- fore appropriate for evening poems 
(note the Empress's reference to vespers). The fact that Shonagon does not quote her 
reply suggests she was not particularly proud of it. 

543. This is from a ninth-century Chinese poem by Kung Cheng-i: 

[The moon,] piercing cold. 

Spreads like ice over the thousand leagues of the realm of Chin, 

And lucently adorns the thirty-six palaces of Han with silver grams. 

544. Presumably during the friend's absence at Court; but the passage is somewhat 

545. The image is not as original as it might seem: Japanese children make toy boats out of 
bamboo leaves. 

546. Reference to a poem by the early eighth-century priest, Mansei: 

This world of ours - 
To what shall I compare it? 

To the white waves behind a boat 
That disappear without a trace 
As it rows away at dawn. 

547. Since ancient times the Japanese have used women divers, partly because they can 
hold their breath longer than men, partly because they are more resistant to the cold. 

548. For being old and ugly, according to Kaneko (Hyoshaku, p. 1045); but perhaps the real 
reason was that they were embarrassingly provincial (W.S.P., p. 96). 

549. Domei, the eldest son of Fujiwara no Michitsuna, was noted for the beauty of his sutra- 
chanting and for his skill at poetry. In the present poem there may be a play on the word 
bon = (i) the Festival of the Dead, (ii) the splash that the old couple made on hitting the 
water. The poem may also suggest the irony of the fact that, after pushing his parents 
into the sea, the lieutenant attended a service that was particularly concerned with 
interceding with those who were undergoing the Ordeal of Fleadlong Falling (Token no 
Ku) in Hell (note 361). For the Confucian significance of this anecdote see W.S.P., p. 110. 

550. The fourth quarter of the Flour of the Ox began at 3.30 a.m. 

551. From a poem by Miyako no Yoshika (d. 879): 

When the cock-man cries the advent of the day. 

The prudent monarch rises from his sleep. 

When in the night the bell of Fu rings out. 

Its sound pervades the darkness of the sky. 

The "cock-man" was an official in charge of delivering fowls for sacrifice; his head-dress 
was decorated with a cock's comb. For all official ceremonies he announced the 
daybreak and the ~our when the ceremony was to start. The bell of Fu was named after 
a family that in the ancient times of Chou had been responsible for casting bells. 

The top lines refer to the conscientious Emperor who, as soon as dawn had been 
announced, would get up and busy himself with affairs of state instead of idling away his 
time in bed. 

552. From a poem by Chia Tao (fl. 793-865), 

At dawn when bells of Wei begin to ring. 

The lovely girl adorns herself with care. 

When cocks crow at the barrier of Flan Ku, 

The traveller journeys by the dying moon's faint light. 

Wei was the name of a palace (Wei Kung); for the barrier of Flan Ku see note 346. 

553. For Mistress of the Robes see note 197. The bishop is Empress Sadako's brother, 

Ryuen. Mama was a name commonly given to nurses in the Fleian period; a woman with 
this mammalian name also appears in The Tale of Genji. 

554. Lit. "thrusting my buttocks into other people's houses", i.e. imposing myself on 
people's hospitality. The phrase has a crude ring and emphasizes the low social status of 
the speaker. 

555. Shonagon's poem is riddled with puns and would be quite incomprehensible to 
anyone unaware of the double meanings involved. The unfortunate recipient of the 
poem would have had little chance of understanding it even if he had been able to read 
the words. 

Using a second set of meanings, we get the following translation, which is of course 
immediately relevant to the situation: 

If the spring-time is strong enough 
To make the fodder bum. 

Even the bedroom of a house like yours 

Could still survive its heat. 

556. Record-slip: narrow strip of paper or tag used among other things for noting the 
amount of rice or other alms to be given to people. By Shonagon's time decorated 
record-slips were also being used in Court circles for writing poems. The poor man in the 
present section obviously believes that Shonagon has written down the amount of rice 
he will receive as charity; instead all he gets is a callous, mocking poem, which he cannot 
even understand. For "good" people's attitude to the lower orders, of which this is a 
peculiarly unattractive example, see W.S.P., p. 99. 

557. Like many sections in The Pillow Book this reads like a character sketch for a possible 
story or novel. On the other hand, Shonagon may be describing some real person. 

The wicked stepmother theme was common in Heian fiction, but the unfortunate 
stepchild was usually a girl (e.g. note 525). 

558. When travelling by carriage, people would frequently wear asymmetrical robes, which 
had very wide, low-hanging sleeves on one side and sleeves of ordinary width on the 
other; they would then let the wide sleeves trail conspicuously outside the carriage. 

The reader should remember that even ordinary Court robes had very wide, heavy 
sleeves; the extra-wide sleeves to which Shonagon refers in this section must have been 
exceedingly cumbersome. 

559. These were all the standard attributes of feminine beauty in the Heian period (W.S.P., 
P- 213). 

560. As a rule the voluminous hair of Heian women hung loosely over their shoulders 
(W.S.P., p. 213), but this was inconvenient for someone who was ill in bed. 

561. The river is the Hasegawa, which flows near the foot of the hill on which Hase Temple 
was built. 

562. Normally the soup and vegetables were eaten together with the rice; to finish each of 
the dishes separately and with such speed was unspeakably ill-mannered (W.S.P., p. 
100 ). 

563. cf. p. 49. 

564. From the poem by Hitomaro: 

If you but came and lingered by my side. 

Like the moon that lingers in the dawning sky 
During the Long-Night Month, 

What need for me to languish as I do? 

The Long-Night Month (Nagatsuki) is the Ninth. Hitomaro's poem ends with a 
combination of particles that gives it the form of a rhetorical question expecting a 
negative reply. 

565. See W.S.P., pp. 244-5. This is one of the many passages in The Pillow Book where 
Shonagon gives her idea of the perfect lover (cf. pp. 49-50). 

566. This section describes a summer evening in the women's quarters of an elegant 
mansion. The woman behind the curtain of state is the mistress of the house, the visitor 
is presumably her lover. 

567. For the nuances of olfactory impressions see W.S.P., pp. 202-5 

568. See note 552. 

569. Magic Incantation of the Thousand Hands: one section of the Thousand Hand Sutra, 
which was especially associated with Shingon. It was recited to ward off illnesses, 
discord, slander, and other evils. 

570. Lit. "a person suffering painfully from an evil spirit". For a discussion of Heian beliefs 
about evil spirits as a cause of illness, and about the method of curing such illness by 
exorcism, see W.S.P., pp. 147-52. Heian exorcist practices were closely associated with 
Shingon and were frequently of Indian origin. 

571. Wand: a type of mace, particularly connected with Shingon and used by priests, 
exorcists, etc., who brandished it in all directions while reciting their prayers and magic 

572. The groans and wails come from the evil spirit, which has temporarily been transferred 
to the medium and is now being painfully subdued by the priest's incantations. 

573. 4 p.m. (App. I). 

574. Kaneko (Hyoshaku, p. 1089) remarks on the similarity between the priest's well- 
chosen, rather pompous words and those of many fashionable doctors in modern times. 

575. cf. p. 192. 

576. High clogs were a rough; rustic form of footwear and looked incongruous with a 
hakama trouser-skirt. The same type of incongruity can be found in modern Japan, 
where students sometimes wear geta (clogs) at the same time as a hakama. 

577. Even if they were in a hurry, well-bred people walked in a slow, dignified manner. 

578. Many yin-yang beliefs and practices became associated in Japan with Shinto (W.S.P., 
pp. 136 ff.), and conversely many Shinto services, such as purification, were performed 
by the yin-yang practitioners known as Masters of Divination. Such was the complexity 
of Heian eclecticism, however, that Buddhist priests also performed services like 
purification which had no connexion whatsoever with their own religion. The paper 
head-dress to which Shonagon refers was a triangular hat fixed to the front of the head 
and tied in the back. It was worn by Shinto priests, exorcists, and others, but not 
normally by Buddhist priests, whose heads were completely shaven. When performing 
an essentially non- Buddhist service like purification, however, Buddhist priests 
frequendy did wear these triangular hats. This produced an ugly, incongruous effect, 
much as if a Roman Catholic priest were to don a magician's cap in order to perform a 
primitive type of service. 

579. cf. note 66 for the prejudice against daytime naps. 

580. Shonagon obviously found it more unpleasant to see ugly people when they were lying 
down than when they were up and about. 

581. Because the scarlet colour hides their dark skin. For the importance of white skin see 
W.S.P., p. 213. 

582. It appears that Korechika also presented Emperor Ichijo with a quantity of paper (good 
paper being in short supply even at Court) and that the Emperor had decided to use his 
allotment for making a copy of the huge Chinese historical work, Shih chi. 

583. "Make them into a pillow": i.e. a pillow book. Here we have one likely explanation of 
the title, of Shonagon's book (for a detailed discussion of the title and its possible 
origins see Ikeda-Kishigami, pp. 6-7, where about a dozen distinct theories are 
suggested). Majura no soshi ("pillow book") referred to a notebook or collection of 
notebooks kept in some accessible but relatively private place, and in which the author 
would from time to time record impressions, daily events, poems, letters, stories, ideas, 
descriptions of people, etc. (For soshi see note 474.) The phrase makura no soshi does 
not appear to have been original with Sei Shonagon; but her work is the only extant one 
of its type with that title as well as being by far, the oldest surviving book of the typically 
Japanese genre known as zuihitsu. 

In later times the name makura no soshi came to designate books of erotic illustrations 
depicting the standard forms of sexual intercourse; such books were frequently included 
in a bride's trousseau as a remedy for her supposed innocence in these matters. 

584. Since Shonagon's judgement tended to be the exact opposite of other people's, it was 
only natural that they should praise a book (her own) which she considered to be 
deficient in so many respects. 


The traditional Japanese calendar was a great deal more complicated than anything we have 
known in the West. Also, because of yin-yang and related ideas, it was far more important in 
people's everyday lives than even the medieval European calendar with its plethora of Saints' 
Days, movable feasts, and other observances. 

In order to explain as clearly as possible the calendar that dominated Heian activities, ranging 
from the appointment of high government officials to trivia like cutting one's toe-nails, it is best 
to start with the Chinese Zodiac, which was the basis of dates, time, and directions. This 
diagram drawn by Mrs Nanae Momiyama, gives the following information from outside to 
inside: (i) the compass directions, (ii) the hours of day and night (midnight at the top, noon at 
the bottom). 



(iii) drawings of the twelve "branches", each corresponding to one watch or two Western 
hours. In order to designate a date the Japanese normally used a combination of two series, 
which produced a cycle of sixty days or sixty years, sixty of course being the first number 
divisible by both ten and twelve. The first series consisted of the twelve signs of the Zodiac as 
shown in the diagram. These signs, known as "branches", were as follows: (i) rat, (ii) ox, (iii) 

tiger, (iv) hare, (v) dragon, (vi) snake, (vii) horse, (viii) sheep, (ix) monkey, (x) bird (xi) dog, (xii) 
boar. They referred to (a) time (e.g. Hour of the Snake—10 a.m. to midnight), (b) direction (e.g. 
Dragon-Snake—south-east), (c) day of the month (e.g. First Day of the Snake), (d) year (e.g. Year 
of the Snake—sixth year of any sexagenary cycle). At present the only frequent use of the 
Zodiac is to designate years: 1969 is the Year of the Bird, 1970 the Year of the Dog, and so on. 
The second series consisted of ten "celestial stems" which were produced by dividing each of 
the five elements into two parts, the "elder brother" and "younger brother". The "branches" 
and "celestial stems" were combined to produce the basic cycle of sixty (see opposite). If, for 
example, a month started on the fifteenth day of the sexagenary cycle the third day of that 
month would be designated as: (i) the (first) Day of the Dragon, (ii) the (first) Day of the Elder 
Brother of Metal, (iii) a combination of (i) and (ii). In any given month there was a maximum of 
three days named after each of the twelve "branches" and three days named after, each of the 
ten "celestial stems". These days could be identified by the prefixes "upper", "middle", and 
"lower" for the first, second, and third respectively. 

Years could also be designated in terms of year-periods, which were regularly decided by the 
Japanese Government from the beginning of the eighth century. This was an involved system of 
dating, because year-periods could begin in the middle of a calendar year and were often 
changed several times in the course of a single imperial reign; a further complication for the 
Westerner is that the latter part of the Japanese lunar calendar falls in the first part of the 
following year according to our solar calendar. Later Japanese historians made the year-periods 
retroactive to the first day of the first lunar month of the year in which it was adopted, but this 
in fact only served to complicate matters further. 














1. Elder brother of wood 













2. Younger brother of 








3. Elder brother of fire 













4. Younger brother of fire 













5. Elder brother of earth 













6. Younger brother of 







7. Elder brother of metal 













8. Younger brother of 







9. Elder brother of water 













10. Younger brother of 








The names of the months in pre-Heian Japan were far more evocative than our dull Januarys 
and Februarys. This is their literal translation: 

1. Sprouting Month 

2. Clothes-lining Month 

3. Ever-growing Month 

4. U no hana Month (the u no hana was a pretty white shrub) 

5. Rice-sprouting Month 

6. Watery Month 

7. Poem-composing Month 

8. Leaf Month (i.e. the month when the leaves turn) 

9. Long Month (i.e. the month with long nights) 

10. Gods-absent Month 

11. Frost Month 

12. End of the year. 

Charming though many of these names are, I have avoided them in my translation for fear that 
they might produce a false exoticism of the "Honourable Lady Plum Blossom" variety. Instead I 
have designated them by the numbers (First Month, Second Month, etc.) that are used in all 
the early texts of The Pillow Book. It should be understood that, though Tenth Month, for 
instance, was normally written with the characters for "ten" and "month", it was pronounced 
Kaminazuki, which means "Gods-absent Month", and that it could also be written with the 
phonetic symbols representing ka, mi, na, zu, and ki. Months were either twenty-nine or thirty 
days long, with an intercalary month added about once every three years. 

Days, as we have seen, were designated in terms of the sexagenary cycle. They could also be 
defined by their order in the month, e.g. Third Day of the Rice-sprouting (Fifth) Month. When 
reading pre- modem literature we should remember that there was. a discrepancy, varying 
from seventeen to forty-five days, between the Japanese (lunar) calendar and the Western 

(Julian) calendar, the Japanese calendar being on an average about one month in advance of 
the Western. For example, the twentieth day of the Twelfth Month in 989 (the date when 
Fujiwara no Kaneie became Prime Minister) corresponded to 19 January 990 in the West; and 
the thirteenth day of the Sixth Month in 10 U (the date of Emperor Ichijo's death) corresponded 
to 25 July. Accordingly the most important day of the year. New Year's Day, came at some time 
between 21 January and 19 February in our calendar. 

The dates of the four seasons were rigidly respected. To wear clothes of an unseasonal colour 
was an appalling solecism in Sei Shonagon's society; a white under-robe in the Eighth Month 
figures among "depressing things". Spring started on New Year's Day; all the associations of 
New Year's Day were therefore vernal, rather than wintry as in the West. Summer, autumn, and 
winter started on the first day of the Fourth, Seventh, and Tenth Months respectively. 

The Fleian calendar was crammed with annual observances of all kinds. The five main festivals 
were New Year's Day (first day of the First Month), the Peach Festival (third day of the Third 
Month), the Iris Festival (fifth day of the Fifth Month), the Weaver Festival (seventh day of the 
Seventh Month), and the Chrysanthemum Festival (ninth day of the Ninth Month). Other 
observances described in The Pillow Book were as follows: 


First Month 2 nd day Tooth-hardening (note 124) 

7 th day (Festival of Young Flerbs (note 3) 

Festival of the Blue Florses (note 5) 

15 th day Full-Moon Gruel (note 9) 

Second Month during four days Seasonal Sacred Readings (note 206) 

Third Month 2 nd day of the Florse Special Festival at Iwashimizu Shrine (note 176) 


Fourth Month 2 nd day of the Bird Kamo Festival (note 14) 


Seventh Month 13 th to 16 th days Festival of the Dead (note 361) 

Eighth Month during four days Seasonal Sacred Readings (note 206) 


Eleventh Month 2 nd day of the Ox Dais Rehearsal 

2 nd day of the Tiger Banquet with songs and dances 
2 nd day of the Flare Attendants' Dance 

Festival of the First Fruits 
2 nd day of the Dragon Gosechi Dances 

last day of the Bird Special Festival at Kamo Shrine (note 176) 

Twelfth Month igth_22 nd days Naming of the Buddhas (note 280) 

last day Festival of the Spirits (note 124) 

Finally, the Fleian day was divided into twelve watches, each two hours in length and divided 
into four quarters. Time was specified by the Zodiacal signs. The watch of the Florse, for 

instance, started at noon and continued until two o'clock in the afternoon; the fourth quarter 
of the Horse therefore corresponded to the thirty minutes between half past one and two 
o'clock in the afternoon. 

I shall conclude with a single complete example. The fourth quarter of the watch of the Tiger on 
the fifteenth day of the Sprouting (First) Month in the Fourth Year of the Chotoku year-period, 
in which the Elder Brother of the Earth coincided with the sign of the bog, corresponded to 
about 6 a.m. on 15 February A.D. 998. And it was at this moment in history that a maid 
announced to Sei Shonagon (p. 107) that her precious snow-mountain had disappeared. 


In the seventh century the leaders of Japan instituted a Great Reform which at least on paper, 
affected every aspect of national life. Their main aim was to weaken the ancient dan-family 
system that had dominated Japanese society since the beginning of history and to substitute a 
modern Chinese style of government. As in the corresponding great change some twelve 
centuries later when Japan renovated herself on Western models, the reform movement of the 
seventh century was spread over several decades; the final codes incorporating the changes 
were not promulgated until the eighth century. Though few of the specific changes were to be 
permanent, and though the structure collapsed almost entirely with the advent of feudalism, 
the new modes of provincial and central administration were still the theoretical basis of 
government in Sei Shonagon's time, and some of the innovations have lasted in form until 
modern times. 

A primary motive of the reformers was centralization. In the provinces all local officials were 
subordinated to a Governor who was appointed every six years by the central government. The 
central government itself was reorganized in pyramidal form, with the emperor at the apex. 
Theoretically all authority in the land derived ultimately from him; but, as it turned out, few 
emperors in Japanese history had any real secular power, and by Shonagon's period the divine 
sovereign was in fact an impotent young puppet manipulated by the Fujiwara family. 

Under the emperor came the two divisions of government, one religious and the other secular. 
The secular branch was headed by the Great Council of State, whose hierarchy included a Prime 
Minister and the Great Ministers of the Left, Right, and Centre. Since the first and last of these 
posts were usually unfilled, the highest officials were the Ministers of the Left and Right, who 
from the middle of the ninth century were usually leading members of the Fujiwara family. 

By Shonagon's time, however, the real ruler of the country was neither the emperor nor any of 
these Great Ministers but the Chancellor, who was always the head of "northern" branch of the 
Fujiwaras. This post was extra-legal in the sense that it was not part of the system officially 
adopted in the seventh century. Though the Chinese hierarchy was never repudiated, no one in 
Shonagon's period would have dreamt of challenging the hegemony of the Fujiwara 
Chancellor. A similar dichotomy between theory and reality applied to many of the lower strata 
of the hierarchy. Almost all the multifarious government departments and officials established 
as part of the Great Reform were preserved; but more and more frequently their actual 
functions were usurped by private or extra-legal organs of government. As a result, many of the 
impressive titles mentioned in The Pillow Book and The Tale of Genji were almost entirely 
formal, and the corresponding posts had become mere sinecures; real work and power had 
moved else- where, often to the Administrative Councils of the vast and prepotent Fujiwara 
family. This distinction should be kept in mind when examining the following account of the 
hierarchy under the Great Council of State. 

Next in rank to the Great Ministers were the Major, Middle, and Minor Counsellors and the 
eight Imperial Advisers, who were all members of the Great Council. The Major Counsellors, of 

whom there were usually three, retained a good deal of real administrative influence long after 
other parts of the structure had lapsed into desuetude. 

Under the Great Council came the Controllers. They were responsible for the two Controlling 
Boards, which like almost every part of the hierarchy were divided into Left and Right in 
imitation of the formal arrangement of officials in the Chinese Court. The Controlling Board of 
the Left was in charge of four Ministeries, including the Ministry of Central Affairs and the 
Ministry of Ceremonial; the Board of the Right controlled the Ministries of the Imperial 
Household and of the Treasury among others. The Ministry of Central Affairs, whose 
responsibilities included Palace ceremonial, the promulgation of edicts, the supervision of 
officials, the study of astronomy and divination, and the compilation of official histories, was by 
far the most important; I the least respected was, quite rightly, the Ministry of War. Each of the 
eight Ministries was headed by a Minister and composed of a varying number of Offices and 
Bureaux. The following are mentioned in The Pillow Book: 

1. Ministry of Central Affairs: Bureau of Divination, Bureau of Imperial Attendants, Bureau 
of the Wardrobe, Imperial Storehouse, Office of the Empress's Household. 

2. Ministry of Ceremonial: Bureau of Education. 

3. Ministry of the Imperial Household: Bureau of Carpentry, Bureau of Medicine, Office of 
Grounds, Table Office. 

4. Ministry of the Treasury: Housekeeping Office. 

To keep things in proper perspective we should remember that most of this elaborate 
governmental machinery, of which the above is only a minute fraction, was concerned with the 
affairs of a select aristocracy who comprised about ten thousand people out of a population of 
some four million. 

Of vital importance for this aristocracy was the complex rank system, which was an integral part 
of the Great Reform. In Shonagon's time the system included four grades for Imperial Princes 
and thirty ranks for other mortals. Each rank was divided into Senior and Junior, and below the 
Third Rank each was further sub-divided into Upper and Lower grades. Every courtier and 
official had some sort of rank, ranging from the Senior First Rank for the Prime Minister to the 
Lesser Initial Rank, Lower Grade, for a Clerk in the Division of Carpentry and Metal Work. As we 
know from section 8 of The Pillow Book, even a cat could receive Court rank: indeed Emperor 
Ichijo's pet cat belonged to at least as high a rank as the Governor of the largest province in 
Japan. The joys of rank were also extended to troublesome ghosts and even to inanimate 
objects like ships. 

Rank was closely correlated with governmental office. By combining the aristocracy with the 
civil service in such a way that a person was usually first given rank and then a suitable office to 
fit that rank, and by making it impossible for anyone to enter the rank hierarchy by merit, the 
Japanese made their system diverge in fundamental and very damaging ways from the Chinese 
model. Not only were holders of rank automatically appointed to government posts, but many 
of them received large allotments of tax-free rice land as well as other privileges like exemption 
from military service and the rights to have certain types of clothes and carriages, to send their 

sons to the University, and ultimately to rest under burial mounds of specified degrees of 

For people of Shonagon's circle almost every aspect of material life was dictated by position in 
the rank system. It is small wonder that many of them became obsessed with matters of 
appointment and promotion and that members of the provincial governor class should ass 
sometimes have chafed at their lowly status in the rank system. It was provincial notables and 
the despised military who were largely instrumental in undermining the entire structure during 
the century that followed Sei Shonagon's death. 

Appendix 3: PLACES 


Alphabetical Listing 

Geographical Listing 

Biwa Ko 


1. Hieizan 



2. Biwa Ko 

Heian Kyo 


3. Heian Kyo 

Hieizan 1 

4. Yodogawa 

Koya San 


5. Nara 



6. Hasedera 



7. Yoshino 



8. Mitake 



9. Koya San 



10. Kumano 


Alphabetical Listing 

Geographical Listing 

Chisoku In 

4 1. Kuramadera 

Inari no Jinfa 

8 2. Kamo no Jinja 

Iwashimizu no Hachiman Gu 


3. Murasaki No 

Kamo no Jinja 


4. Chisoku In 


1 5. Ninna Ji 

Murasaki No 

3 6. Uzumasa 

Ninna Ji 

5 7. Osaka no Seki 

Osaka no Seki 


8. Inari no Jinja 

Otoko Yama 

9 9. Otoko Yama 


6 10. Iwashimizu no Hachiman Gu 

* The maps in Appendices 3b and 3c are adapted from R. K. Reischauer's Early Japanese History, 
Volume B, published in 1937 by Princeton University Press, with whose permission they are 



Alphabetical Listing 
Agatano Ido 
Hoko In 
Ichijo ni Miya 
Ichijo no Oji 

Ima Dairi, see Ko Ichijo In 



Ko Ichijo In 
Ki Nijo In 
Ko Rokujo In 
Kyogoku Dono 
Nijo no Miya 
Nijo no Oji 
Ono no Miya 
Reizei no In 

Shakuzen Ji 
Somedono no Miya 
Sugawara no In 
Suzaku In 
Suzaku Oji 
To In 

Tomi no Koji 
To Sanjo In 

Geographical Listing 

3 1. Daidairi 

1 2. Ichijo no Miya 

14 3. Agata no Ido 

2 4. Somedono no Miya 

6 5. Sekai 

6. Ichijo no Oji 

18 7.Kyogoku Dono 

24 8. Ko Ichijo In 

22 9. Sugawara no In 

8 10. Ono no Miya 

13 11. Reizei no In 

23 12. Nijo no Miya 

7 13. Ko Nijo In 

12 14. Hoko In 

16 15. Shakuzen Ji 

10 16. Nijo no Oji 

11 17. Suzaku Oji 

5 18. Kanin 

15 19. To Sanjo In 

4 20. Yamanoi 

9 21. Suzaku In 

21 22. Kobai 

17 23. Ko Rokujo In 

25 24. Kiyomizudera 

26 25. To In 

19 26. Tomi no Koji 


0 IchijS no Oji - 

Robot no In Agota noido Somodono no Miya 
\ IchijSnoMiya / 

16 Nij5noOji- 

Shijfi no Oji - 

RokujS no Oji- 

Hachijd no Oji- 
Kuj6 no Ojt— 

Tinmen r-\-] 
cm cm im I i \j 

□□□j 1 


(IchijS no Oji 

j 1 I 1 I 1 EH - KyOgoku Dono 

Daidairi V|-1 fTl 


— $ _ Koba 


I 25 . 

_ _ _ _ _ |T0 ln| _ 

-1" “ Ichijo In 

| j 1 —- Sugawara no In 

—J -1 14 H5k5 In (15 Shakuzon JO 

E~~1 - Ko Nij5 In 

o V I -C3 ~ — Ono no Miya 
19^ 2(Tr " Nij8 no Miya 

l ~~ Jr " Yamanoi 

24 Kiyombudora 
-Ko RokujS In /fr 


2$Tomino KSjl 

^ roprosenta Buddhist tompla 


ln= Temple Miya = Palace Oji = Avenue 

Appendix 4: CLOTHES, HOUSES, ETC. 



head dress 


over robe 

ribbon attached 
to sword belt 



court cloak 

trouser skirt 

loose-laced trousers 




hunting cloak 


back view 

unlined dress 
Chinese jacket 

front view 

skirt with long train 

hair ornament 

matched set of 
unlined dresses 

Chinese jacket 

skirt with longtrair^ 




trouser skirt unlined dress 


Outside-. Reconstruction of a shinden mansion and its garden by Mr Mori Osamu (N.B. this 
reconstruction of Higashi Sanjo Dono is taken from Nihon Emakimono Zenshu., vol xii). 

1. Main building 2. Wing 3. Corridor 4. Gate 

Inside : Schematic redrawing by Mrs Nanae Momiyama of the section from Mokuro no Soshi 

Emaki that illustrated the Shigei Sha's visit to her sister (section 70). 

5. Cushion 12. Brazier 

6. Straw mat with floral design 13. Straw mat with white and black design 

7. Curtain-dais 14. Sliding-door 

8. Curtain of state 15. Blinds 

9. Lion 16. Open veranda 

10. Beam 17. Tray 

11. Screen 18. Garden fence 

Schematic redrawing by Mrs Nanae Momiyama of the section from Mokuro no Soshi Emaki 
illustrating the scene in which Shonagon makes an allusion to a passage from Chinese literature 
about bamboo (section 90). 

19. Open veranda 

20. Balustrade 

21. Side door 

22. Latticed shutters 

23. Sliding-door 

24. Blinds 

25. Curtain of state 

26. Sliding-door 

27. Beam 


Style of letting one's sleeves hang outside 
the carriage in which one is travelling 


Twisted letters 


Thirteen-pipe flute 

Seven-string zither 

Six-string zither 

Thirteen-string zither 


Appendix 5: CHRONOLOGY 

Dates are given according to the lunar calendar; "23.6", for example, means the twenty-third 
day of the sixth lunar month. Italicized entries are from The Pillow Book; datable sections are 
listed at the end of the Chronology. 


23.6 Emperor Kazan secretly visited Kazan Temple and took holy orders. Emperor Ichijo 
acceded to the Throne (aged six). 

24.6 Fujiwara no Kaneie, the father of Michitaka, was appointed 
Regent and became Head of the (Fujiwara) Clan. 

6th Month Shonagon heard the Eight Lessons at Ko Sllirakawa (section 23). 

5.7 Emperor Ichijo's mother, Fujiwara no Senshi, became Empress Dowager. 

22.7 The enthronement ceremony of Emperor Ichijo took place. 


7.1 (?) Shonagon visited the Imperial Palace to view, the Ceremony of the Blue Horses (section 

2 ). 

14-10 Emperor Ichijo visited the residence of the Regent, Fujiwara no Kaneie. 

15.12 Emperor Ichijo) made a pilgrimage to Kamo Shrine. 


25.3 Emperor Ichijo celebrated the sixtieth birthday of the Regent, Fujiwara no Kaneie. 

16.9 Fujiwara no Kaneie held a banquet at his new residence in Nijo. 

27.10 The Priestly. Retired Emperor, Enyu, visited Fujiwara no Kaneie in Nijo. 


16.2 Emperor Ichijo made a pilgrimage to Enyu Temple. 

22.3 Emperor Ichijo made his first pilgrimage to Kasuga Shrine. 

20.12 Fujiwara no Kaneie was appointed Prime Minister. 


5.1 Emperor Ichijo, aged ten, celebrated his coming-of-age ceremony. 

25.1 Fujiwara no Sadako, Michitaka's daughter, became an Imperial consort at the age of 

11.2 Fujiwara no Sadako was appointed Imperial Lady (Nyogo). 

? Shonagon probably entered Court service during this year as Empress. Sadako's lady-in- 
waiting (section 116). 

5.5 Fujiwara no Kaneie was appointed Chancellor. 

8.5 Fujiwara no Kaneie took holy orders, and Fujiwara no Michitaka succeeded him as 

13.5 Fujiwara no Michitaka became Head of the (Fujiwara) Clan. 

26.5 Fujiwara no Michitaka was appointed Regent. 

6th Month Kiyowara no Motosuke, Shonagon's father, died in Higo at the age of eighty- 

2.7 Fujiwara no Kaneie died at the age of sixty-one. 

5.10 Fujiwara no Sadako was appointed Second Empress; Fujiwara no Nobuko became First 


1st Month Emperor Ichijo visited his father, the Priestly Retired Emperor, Enyu, in Enyu 
Temple where he lay ill. 

3.2 The Priestly Retired Emperor, Enyu, died at the age of thirty-two. 

7.9 Fujiwara no Tamemitsu was appointed Prime Minister. 

16.9 Fujiwara no Senshi, the widow of Emperor Enyu, being in ill health, took holy orders and 
received the name Higashi Sanjo no In. 

3.11 Higashi Sanjo no In moved into the residence of her brother, Fujiwara no Michinaga. 


6.2 The one-year period of mourning for Emperor Enyu came to an end; Shonagon 
described this as "a most moving time"; a practical joke was played on Tozammi (section 

3rd Month (?) Shonagon visited her friend's house to perform abstinence (section 159). 

6th Month Fujiwara no Tamemitsu, the Prime Minister, died at the age of fifty. 

8th Month (?) At some time between 992 (8th Month) and 994 (8th Month) Fujiwara no 

Korechika visited the Palace and Emperor Ichijo was awakened by a rooster (section 

12th Month Empress Sadako, residing at the Southern Palace, ordered a dress to be sewn in a 
hurry (section 62). 

7.12 Empress Sadako returned to the Imperial Palace from the Southern Palace. 


3.1 Emperor Ichijo made his annual New Year visit to his mother, Higashi Sanjo no In. 

22.1 There was an Imperial banquet attended by Higashi Sanjo no In and Empress Sadako. 

22.4 Fujiwara no Michitaka was appointed Chancellor and resigned as Regent. 

Summer There was an epidemic of smallpox and an amnesty was proclaimed. Intercalary 

20.10 Sugawara no Michizane was posthumously appointed Prime Minister. 

(Early spring or early winter Shonagon entered Court service, according to Ikeda Kikan, 

Kishigami Shinji, etc.) 

Between 993 (4th Month) and 994 (8th Month) Fujiwara no Michi-taka came out through 

the Black Door and his brother, Michinaga, did obeisance to him (section 83). 

15.11 (?) Empress Sadako sent Gosechi dancers to the Palace. 

27.11 Emperor Ichijo made his first pilgrimage to Ohara No. 

22.12 A screen depicting the horrors of hell was taken to Empress Sadako's Palace; Korecllika 
recited a Chinese poem (section 50). 


23.1 Fujiwara no Michitaka held a great banquet. 

17.2 Fires broke out in Koki Palace and other palaces. 

2nd Month Shonagon attended services at Shaleuzen Temple (section 

3rd Month Emperor Ichijo ordered Empress Sadako's ladies to write poems (section 11). 

3rd Month (?) Empress Sadako played the lute (section 59). 

9.5 Lady Joshi, the Crown Prince's consort, gave birth to a son, the future Prince Atsuakira. 
5th Month Fujiwara no Tadunobu visited the Empress's apartments in Seiryo Palace and 
impressed her ladies with his scent (section 6o). 

7.8 Fujiwara no Michitaka organized a wrestling tournament. 

28.8 Fujiwara no Korechika was appointed Minister of the Centre. 

After 8th Month Fujiwara no Koreclzika presented some notebooks to Empress Sadako, 
who gave them to Shonagon "to make into a pillow" (section 185). 

Autumn (?) Shonagon may have started writing The Pillow Book about this time. 

13.11 Fujiwara no Michitaka fell ill. 

12th Month There was a solar eclipse, robberies occurred in the provinces, and a great 
epidemic broke out. 


2.1 Owing to illness, Fujiwara no Michitaka was unable to appear at Court. 

9.1 Several residences on Nijo no Oji were destroyed by fire, including those of Fujiwara no 
Michitaka and Fujiwara no Korechika. 

19.1 Fujiwara no Michitaka's second daughter, the Shigei Sha, became a consort of the 
Crown Prince. 

3.2 The palace attendants of Higashi Sanjo no In fought with those of Empress Sadako. 

5.2 Fujiwara no Michitaka resigned as Chancellor. 

12.2 (?) Fujiwara no Yukinari sent rice cakes to Shonagon (section 86). 

18.2 The Shigei Sha visited Empress Sadako, her sister (section 70). 

26.2 Fujiwara no Michitaka confirmed his resignation as Chancellor. 

End of the 2nd Month Fujiwara no Tadanobu and Shonagon exchanged messages and he 

put her to the test (section 51). 

9.3 Owing to his father's illness, Fujiwara no Korechika assumed the duties of Imperial 
Examiner (Nairan). 

6.4 Fujiwara no Michitaka took holy orders. 

10.4 Fujiwara no Michitaka died at the age of forty-two. 

27.4 Fujiwara no Michikane was appointed Chancellor. 

28.4 Fujiwara no Michikane became Head of the (Fujiwara) Clan. 

Between 995 (4th Month) and 996 (4th Month) Fujiwara no Takaie presented a fan to his 
sister. Empress Sadako (section 68). 

8.5 Fujiwara no Michikane died at the age of thirty-four. 

4th and 5th Months There was a great epidemic, in which many high officials died. 

11.5 Fujiwara no Michinaga was appointed Imperial Examiner (Nairan). 

5th Month (?) Shonagon and her companions went to hear the hototogisu and failed to produce 
any poems (section 65). 

11.6 Fujiwara no Michiyori, Empress Sadako's brother, died at the age of twenty-five. 

19.6 Fujiwara no Michinaga was appointed Minister of the Right and became Head of the 
(Fujiwara) Clan. 

28.6 Empress Sadako moved into the Empress's Office. 

6th Month Shonagon and the other ladies-in-waiting moved with the Empress into the 
Dining Hall of the High Court Nobles and visited the Time Office (section 105). 

8.7 Empress Sadako returned to the Palace. 

24.7 There was a dispute between Fujiwara no Michinaga and his nephew, Fujiwara no 

27.7 There was a fight between the attendants of Fujiwara no Michinaga and those of 
Fujiwara no Korechika's brother, Takaie. 

10.9 Empress Sadako held a memorial service for her father, Fujiwara no Michitaka, in the 
Empress's Office; after the service Fujiwara. no Tadanobu quoted a Chinese poem, 
deeply impressing the Empress and Shonagon (section 88). 

21.10 Emperor Ichijo made a pilgrimage to Iwashimizu Hachiman Shrine at Yawata. 

22.10 Emperor Ichijo visited his mother, Higashi Sanjo no In, on his return from Yawata 
(section 82). 

995-6 Shonagon observed examples of Masahiro's strange behaviour (section 72). 


16.1 The attendants of Fujiwara no Korechika and Fujiwara no Takaie shot at the Priestly 
Retired Emperor, Kazan. 

11.2 The Doctors of Law (Myobo Hakase) determined the guilt of Fujiwara no Korechika and 
Fujiwara no Takaie. 

End of 2nd Month Fujiwara no Tadanobu visited Shonagon in Umetsubo Palace and was 
disappointed not to find her (section 53). 

3rd Month Emperor Ichijo took the Mumyo flute to Empress Sadako's rooms (section 58). 

30.3 Fujiwara no Tadanobu and Minamoto no Nobukata visited Shonagon in the Palace 
(section 106). 

Between 995 (12th Month) and 996 (12th Month) Minamoto no Tsunefusa discovered 
Shonagon's notes and they came into circulation (section 184). 

24.4 Empress Sadako, being pregnant, moved to the Palace of the Second Ward; Fujiwara no 
Korechika was appointed Provisional Governor-General of the Goverrunent 

Headquarters in Kyushu, and Fujiwara no Takaie was appointed Provisional Governor of 
Izumo Province. 

1.5 Empress Sadako took holy orders. 

1.5 Fujiwara no Takaie left the capital. 

4.5 Fujiwara no Korechika left the capital. 

15.5 Fujiwara no Korechika and Fujiwara no Takaie were detained in Harima and Tajima 
Provinces respectively. 

4th or 5th Month Shonagon told the Empress that beautiful paper or straw mats consoled 
her when she felt depressed; later she received twenty rolls of paper from the Empress 
and used it to write her notes (section 149). 

About 7th Month Shonagon was visited at home by a gentleman who advised her to return 
to the Empress (section 94). 

9.8 Fujiwara no Yoshiko became an Imperial Concubine. 

7.10 Fujiwara no Takaie requested permission to return to the capital. 

10.10 Fujiwara no Korechika, who had secretly returned to the capital, was ordered to be 
expelled from the city and sent to his post. 

10th Month Empress Sadako's mother, the widow of Fujiwara no Michitaka, died.. 

1.11 Fujiwara no Michinaga made a pilgrimage to Kasuga Shrine 

2.12 Fujiwara no Motoko became an Imperial Concubine. 

16.12 Empress Sadako gave birth to her first child. Princess Osako. 

All year There were rice shortages and famines. 

During the year (?) Minamoto no Masahiro behaved strangely when serving as Chamberlain 
on duty during the roll-call (section 36). 


25.3 Owing to the illness of Higashi Sanjo no In, a general amnesty was proclaimed. 

5.4 Thanks to the amnesty, Fujiwara no Korechika and Fujiwara no Takaie were recalled to 
the capital. 

21.4 Fujiwara no Takaie returned to the capital. 

22.6 Emperor Ichijo visited Higashi Sanjo no In because of her illness. 

22.6 Empress Sadako moved to the Empress's Office with Princess Osako. 

6th or 7th Month Shonagon and her companions amused themselves in the garden of the 
Empress's Office and visited the guard-house of the Left Guards (section 49). 

8th Month (?) Lady Ukon played the lute in. the Empress's Office (section 66). 

Autumn Shonagon received a message from Empress Sadako recalling the visit to the 
guard-house and asking her to return to the Palace (section 55) 

Between 997 (1st Month) and 998 (1st Month) Fujiwara no Nobutsune came to the 
Empress's Palace and was ridiculed by Shonagon (section 69). 

2.11 The Government Headquarters in Kyushu reported the repulsion of the southern 

12th Month Fujiwara no Korechika returned to the capital 


2nd Month Empress Sadako moved to the Empress's Office. Minamoto no Nobukoto had a 
liaison with Lady Sakyo, but broke with her after being teased by Shonagon (section 

2nd or 3rd Month Fujiwara no Yukinari and Shonagon exchanged poems about Osaka 
Barrier (section 89). 

3rd Month Fujiwara no Yukinari saw Shonagon in her bedroom (section 35). 

5.7 Empress Sadako was ill. 

18.7 Emperor Ichijo was ill. 

20.7 Owing to Emperor Ichijo's illness, a general amnesty was proclaimed. 

After 10th Month Fujiwara no Masamitsu overheard Shonagon making an objectionable 
remark (section 132). 

10.12 There was a heavy fall of snow; snow mountains were built outside the Palace, and 

Shonagon predicted that the one outside the Empress's Office would last until the 15th 
day of the New Year (section 56). 

After 10th Month Shonagon was impressed by Minamoto no Narinobu's ability to recognize 
people's voices (section 131). 


3.1 Empress Sadako returned to the Palace, but without the usual ceremonial. 

9.2 Fujiwara no Akiko, Michinaga's daughter, celebrated her coming-of-age ceremony at the 
age of eleven and was appointed to the 3rd Rank. 

Last day of 2nd Month Shonagon was challenged by a poem from Fujiwara no Kinto and 
other gentlemen (section 71). 

End of 2nd Month (?) Shonagon stayed at home secretly and Fujiwara no Tadanobu tried to 
discover where she was (section 53). 

5th Month Shonagon astonished some courtiers by recognizing a Chinese reference (section 

14.6 The Imperial Palace burnt down. 

16.6 Emperor Ichijo moved to the Palace of the First Ward. 

6th Month (?) Shonagon wrote that she had been serving for ten years in the Palace (section 

9.8 Owing to her pregnancy. Empress Sadako moved from the Empress's Office to the house 
of Taira no Narimasa. 

9.8 Shonagon accompanied Empress Sadako to the house of Taira no Narimasa and found 
many occasions to tease their host (section 7). 

1.11 Fujiwara no Akiko entered the Palace. 

7.11 Empress Sadako gave birth to Prince Atsuyasu at the house of Taira no Narimasa. 

7.11 Fujiwara no Akiko was appointed Imperial Concubine. 

1.12 The Great Empress Dowager died at the age of fifty-five. 


12.2 Empress Sadako moved to the Palace of the First Ward. 

20.2 Emperor Ichijo was given a music lesson by Fujiwara no Takata (section 15). 

25.2 Empress Sadako was appointed First Empress, Fujiwara no Akiko became Second 
Empress, and Fujiwara no Nobuko became Great Empress Dowager. 

3rd Month The dog , Okinamaru, was punished for attacking the 
Emperor's cat (section 8). 

27.3 Empress Sadako returned to Taira no Narimasa's house. 

5.5 Herbal balls were presented to Empress Sadako and Empress Akiko; Shonagon 
exchanged poems with Empress Sadako (section 130). 

8.8 Empress Sadako returned to the Imperial Palace. 

8th Month (?) Minamoto no Narinobu visited Shonagon on a rainy night, but she pretended to 
be asleep (section 152). 

27.8 Empress Sadako returned to the house of Taira no Narimasa. 

11.10 Emperor Ichijo moved into the rebuilt Palace. 

15.12 Empress Sadako gave birth to a second princess. 

16.12 Empress Sadako died from childbirth at the age of twenty-four. 

27.12 Empress Sadako was buried in Rokuhara. 

Date Section 

986 (6th Month) 23 

987 (1st Month) (?) 2 

990 (?) 116 

992 (2nd Month) 91 

992 (3rd Month) (?) 159 

992 (8th Month) (?) 167 

992 (12th Month) 62 

Between 993 (4th Month) and 994 (4th Month) 83 

993 (12th Month) so 994 (2nd Month) 150 

994 (3rd Month) 10 

994 (3rd Month) (?) 59 

994 (5th Month) 60 

994 (after 8th Month) 185 

995 (2nd Month) (?) 86 

995 (2nd Month) 70 

995 (end of 2nd Month) 51 

Between 995 (4th Month) and 996 (4th Month) 68 

995 (5th Month) (?) 65 

995 (6th Month) 105 

995 (9th Month) 88 

995 (10th Month) 82 

995-6 72 

996 (end of 2nd Month) 52 

996 (3rd Month) 58 

996 (3rd Month) 106 

Between 995 (12th Month) and 996 (12th Month) 184 
996 (4th or 5th Month) 149 

996 (about 7th Month) 94 

996 (?) 

997 (6th or 7th Month) 49 

997 (8th Month) (?) 66 

997 (autumn) 55 

Between 997 (1st Month) and 998 (ist Month) 69 

998 (2nd Month) 108 

998 (2nd or 3rd Month) 89 

998 (3rd Month) 35 

998 (after 10th Month) 132 

998 (12th Month) 56 

998 (after 10th Month) 131 

999 (2nd Month) 71 

999 (2nd Month) 53 

999 (5th Month) 90 

999 (6th Month) (?) 28 

999 (8th Month) 7 

1000 (2nd Month) 15 

1000 (3rd Month) 8 

1000 (5th Month) 130 

1000 (8th Month) (?) 152 




987 (1st Month) 


999 (8th Month) 


1000 (3rd Month) 


994 (3rd Month) 


1000 (2nd Month) 


986 (6th Month) 


999 (6th Month) (?) 


998 (3rd Month) 


996 (?) 


997 (6th or 7th Month) 


993 (12th Month) 



























995 (end of 2nd Month) 

996 (end of 2nd Month) 

999 (2nd Month) 

997 (autumn) 

998 (12th Month) 

996 (3rd Month) 

994 (3rd Month) (?) 

994 (5th Month) 

992 (12th Month) 

995 (5th Month) (?) 

997 (8th Month) (?) 

Between 995 (4th Month) and 996 (4th Month) 
Between 997 (1st Month) and 998 (1st Month) 
995 (2nd Month) 

999 (2nd Month) 


995 (10th Month) 

Between 993 (4th Month) and 994 (4th Month) 
995 (2nd Month) (?) 

995 (9th Month) 

998 (2nd or 3rd Month) 

999 (5th Month) 

992 (2nd Month) 

996 (about 7th Month) 

995 (6th Month) 

996 (3rd Month) 

998 (2nd Month) 

990 (?) 

1000 (5th Month) 

998 (after 10th Month) 

998 (after 10th Month) 

996 (4th or 5th Month) 

994 (2nd Month) 

1000 (8th Month) (?) 

992 (3rd Month) (?) 

992 (8th Month) (?) 

Between 995 (12th Month) and 996 (12th Month) 
994 (after 8th Month) 


Beaujard, Andre, Les Notes de chevet de Sei Shonagon, Paris, 1934. Sei Shonogon: son temps et 
son oeuvre, Paris, 1934. 

Brower, Robert, and Miner, Earl, Japanese Court Poetry, Stanford, 1961. 

Cranston, Edwin, The Izumi Shikibu Diary, Cambridge (U.S.A.), 1969. 

de Bary, William Theodore, et al., ed.. Sources of the Japanese Tradition, New York, 1958. 

Eliot, Sir Charles, Japanese Buddhism, London, 1959. 

Frank, Bernard, Kata-imi et kata-tagae: etude sur les interdits de direction a Tepoque Heian, 
Tokyo, 1958. 

Keene, Donald, Anthology of Japanese Literature, New York, 1955. Japanese Literature, London, 

McCullough, Helen Craig, Tales of Ise, Stanford, 1968. 

Morris, Ivan, The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan, Penguin Books 
edition, 1969. Dictionary of Selected Forms in Classical Japanese Literature, New York and 
London, 1966. 

Nippon Gakujutsu Shinkokai, The Manyoshu, Tokyo, 1940. 

Omori, Annie, and Koehl Doi, Diaries of Court Ladies of Old Japan, Boston, 1935. 

Purcell, Dr. T. A., and Aston, William, A Literary Lady of Old Japan, Transactions of the Asiatic 
Society of Japan, XVI. 3, Tokyo, 1888. 

Reischauer, Edwin, and Fairbank, John, East Asia: The Great Tradition, Boston, 1958. 

Reischauer, Edwin, Enin's Travels in Tang China, New York, 1955. 

Reischauer, R. K., Early Japanese Flistory, Princeton, 1937. 

Revon, Michel, Anthologie de la litterature japonaise, des origines au XXe siecle, Paris, 1928. 

Sansom, G. B., A Flistory of Japan (Vol. I: to 1334), London, 1958. A Short Cultural Flistory of 
Japan, London, 1931. 

Seidensticker, Edward, The Kagero Nikki: Journal of a 10th Century Noblewoman, Tokyo, 1955. 

Waley, Arthur, The Pillow-Book of Sei Shonagon, London, 1928. Japanese Poetry, London, 1919. 
The Tale of Genji (originally published in 6 volumes, London, 1925-33). 

A selection of books published by Penguin is listed on the following pages. For a complete list of 
books available from Penguin in the United States, write to Dept. DG, Penguin Books, 299 
Murray Hill Parkway, East Rutherford, New Jersey 07073. 

For a complete list of books available from Penguin in Canada, write to Penguin Books 
Canada Limited, 2801 John Street, Markham, Ontario L3R 1B4. 

If you live in the British Isles, write to Dept. EP, Penguin Books Ltd, Harmondsworth, 



Translated from the Japanese with an Introduction by Nobuyuki Yuasa 


Translated with an Introduction by D. C. Lau 

Translated with an Introduction by Liu Jung-en 


Translated with an Introduction by Ronald Latham 



Translated from the Sanskrit with an Introduction by Juan Mascaro 

Translated with Notes by N. ]. Dawood 

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Translated with an Introduction by N. J. Dawood Engravings on Wood from Original Designs by 
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Translated by Edward Come 

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